2001 was literally a watershed year for Oro Valley as the town finally reached an agreement with the city of Tucson over CAP water and effluent rights that will eventually allow the town to wean itself off its dependence on groundwater.
Oro Valley will pay Tucson $5 million to annul a 1979 water agreement and give Oro Valley the rights to 4,454 acre feet of CAP water -- the town already has a 2,294 acre foot allotment -- and the rights to the effluent that is produced in the town.
The intent is for the CAP water to be used as drinking water and the effluent to water the town's golf courses, parks and other turf areas.
Now all that remains is the construction of a delivery system for both types of water. While that's a $50 million question the town must find a way to answer, it's one that couldn't even be considered without the November deal with Tucson.
The Tucson deal wasn't the only water news in Oro Valley in 2001. In March the town borrowed $10 million to pay for the Tucson settlement and for water system infrastructure improvements and additions. In August, the council voted to raise the town's water rates to cover rising water system maintenance costs and to begin paying back the bonds issued earlier in the year.
Oro Valley water users may also be facing rate increases soon to pay for a new stormwater utility after the Environmental Protection Agency told the town it may be in violation of the Clean Water Act if it doesn't begin reducing the amount of pollutants in stormwater runoff into the Canada del Oro Wash.
Money was the second biggest story in Oro Valley last year with 2001 starting off sunny and bright and ending dim and foreboding.
In January the economy was still humming at record pace and town planners were working on the beginning of construction of the Ritz Carlton luxury resort hotel in Rancho Vistoso and on the construction of more than 1.5 million square feet of new commercial retail space along Oracle Road.
But by October the Ritz and the new shopping centers were on hold as the economy slowed during the year then sputtered into recession after the September terrorist attacks.
The economic slowdown also slowed the number of new homes built in the town and by November town Finance Director David Andrews announced the town's operating budget was $750,000 in the red, prompting the council in December to dip into savings to balance the books.
Short-term money trouble is something town leaders would rather not have as the town is facing huge long-term infrastructure costs for the water system and for roadway improvements. On the drawing board for construction next year is the expansion of La Canada Drive from Lambert Lane south to Ina Road (the county is paying for the improvements south of the town boundary); the expansion of First Avenue from Tangerine to Oracle; the construction of a bridge over the Canada del Oro Wash connecting Pusch View Lane to Lambert Lane; and the preliminary planning of the reconstruction and expansion of Tangerine from First to La Cholla Boulevard.
The town also commissioned a task force to make recommendations for uses of the Naranja Town Site, a 150-acre plus site east of Copper Creek. Among the options being considered are a park, a community center and pool, and a performing arts auditorium.
The battle over development near Honey Bee Canyon continued as Rancho Vistoso's developer Vistoso Partners sought the annexation of a peninsula of land west of Sun City into the town. The annexation carried some conditions, including allowing Vistoso to build in areas identified on the town's General Plan as open space and the waiving of a $500,000 purchase price for two lots the town needs for water reservoirs. A citizens group gathered enough signatures to put the annexation to a vote in 2002.
Vistoso also sought and received approval of changes to the General Plan to build in designated open space in the same area as the annexation and another area west of there. The changes were opposed by the citizens group. The group turned in enough petitions signatures to put the changes to a vote but when the council voted to reconsider its approval of the plan changes, it made the petitions moot, angering members of the group and those who signed the petitions. The council has since dodged the issue, delaying voting on the changes several times and eventually postponing action on it to later this month.
About 1,600 acres along the town's western boundary may finally be part of Oro Valley after the Arizona Supreme Court in December upheld a lower court's ruling that the town of Tortolita was not legally incorporated in 1997. Oro Valley had annexed the acreage in 1998 but court injunctions had prevented Oro Valley from extending its jurisdiction into the area until Tortolita breathed its last legal breath in state court. Oro Valley has asked for the injunction to be lifted, however that had not occurred as of Dec. 26. Several Tortolita-area residents have a related voting-rights violation case being heard in federal court, and it was unknown as of press time whether the federal court would consider hearing arguments to impose an injunction against Oro Valley until that case is resolved. Tortolita supporters were also considering appealing the state case to the United States Supreme Court, which would likely include a request for continuing the injunction.
The town announced in December its intent to make a third attempt to annex the commercial district surrounding the Oracle and Magee roads intersection.
In December, three people filed petitions to run for mayor in 2002 and three people filed petitions to run for the one open council seat in the 2002 election. The mayoral candidates are incumbent Paul Loomis, who is seeking a second four-year term, Ken Kinared and Wayne Bryant. The council candidates are Paula Abbott, Lyra Done and Emily Smith Sleigh. Councilmember Fran LaSala chose not to run for re-election. The council in October voted to conduct the 2002 election entirely by mail with ballots for the primary being mailed in February and due by March 12.
In April, the town disbanded for the second time a Fire Advisory Board after the board submitted guidelines for fire and emergency service standards in the town. Disbanding the board left unresolved the issue of disparate fire service in the town, with half the town served by the Golder Ranch Fire District and the rest served by Rural/Metro, a subscription service.
In November the council enacted a restaurant smoking ban similar to the bans passed by the city of Tucson and Pima County.