TASK FORCE SKEPTICAL OF OPTIONS FOR NARANJA - The Explorer: Import

TASK FORCE SKEPTICAL OF OPTIONS FOR NARANJA

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Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2002 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:46 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

The Naranja Town Site Master Plan Task Force on Aug.19 will ask residents for their reaction to two options for locating town buildings on the 214-acre park site even though several of the panel's members are opposed to placing such facilities there.

The Oro Valley Town Council has indicated it wants 15 acres set aside for public works, water and park administrative offices as well as a training center for police and space to house vehicles and equipment.

Stantec Consulting Inc. has prepared two overlays showing where those facilities would be located and residents will be asked to comment on the site selections.

Under the first of two options, the town's Public Works Department and water utility administration would be housed in a 11,000 square-foot, two-story community center building on 2.3 acres, general administrative staff would be housed in three two-story buildings totaling 38,000 square feet on 7.8 acres in the southeast corner of the park, and the Police Department would be provided with a 20,000 square-foot, two story building on three acres, also in the southeast corner.

The alternative option calls for all buildings to be located in the southeast corner. Only about 12 acres would be available for town facilities, however, three acres less than what the town says it needs.

Plans for the site seem to be "going from a park to a multifaceted operational facility," said Task Force Chairman Dick Eggerding. "I'm very upset with what the council has done to this committee," said task force member Pam Cleveland. "I feel we've wasted a whole year" studying proposed uses of the site, holding hearings seeking public reaction and making adjustments to reflect the wishes of the public.

Cleveland said the town has been aware of its space problems for at least the last couple of years and questioned why the council waited until the last minute to say it had a problem and needed space at the park.

She also questioned why the council hadn't considered either delaying construction of a new library at the Town Hall complex and putting some of its needed buildings there or locating the library on the park site rather than the buildings being proposed.

Even with Naranja as a pure park site the town hasn't enough park space to meet future needs, and with public buildings on the site it will be even less able to do so, said Doug White, another task force member.

Towns just don't combine their business areas with parks as a matter of course, added Colleen Wampler, a task force member representing the Monterro Hills area.

Other panel members were concerned that allowing town buildings on the park site now would simply encourage further encroachment by the town each time more space was needed.

The task force meeting began on a note of confusion with Eggerding counseling panel members that they were under council direction to choose one of the two options. "We've been given specific directions by the executive committee and the council to do what we're going to do tonight," he told them.

Task force members were concerned that their selection of one alternative over another might indicate to the Town Council a willingness on the part of the panel to have town facilities located at Naranja.

Eggerding said the panel was given a mandate merely to select an alternative, but could make it clear to the mayor and council its selection in no way reflected panel support for having town facilities located at the park site.

The very raising of the question illustrated the task force's opposition to placing town facilities at the site.

In an attempt to clear up the confusion as to whether the task force was under a mandate to select one of the two options to be presented to the public for comment, Lyra Done, vice chair of the Naranja Master Plan Executive Committee, said it was the intent of the committee to have both options presented to the public for comment and for the task force to merely refine those options.

Task force members also were concerned that if and when an election is held for a $45 million to $50 million bond issue to finance park improvements, voters might be given the false impression that the town buildings are included when they are not.

Task force members representing the Copper Creek, Monte del Oro and Monterro Hills neighborhoods sought changes dealing with potential problems of noise abatement, views of parking lots and buildings and traffic jams the location of town facilities might create in their areas.

Bill Moody, Planning and Zoning Commission chairman, said residents probably wouldn't even be able to see most of the proposed buildings from their homes and suggested that opponents try and look at the proposals financially from the town's point of view that few other sites are available and purchasing additional land would be so much more expensive.

The public is just "being a little greedy" in looking at the site from a purely recreational standpoint, Moody said.

Public Works Director Bill Jansen said the town has had a history of only "planning for yesterday" but now must start looking toward dealing with the growth problems it is likely to face 10 years from now.

The town's public works operations building with nearly 50 employees is sitting on a septic tank designed for a single family home and is long overdue in fulfilling its promise to residents along Calle Concordia to move off its site. The Police Department is being forced to travel to the Pima County Fairgrounds for training exercises because of a lack of facilities and administrative staff are being squeezed to the limit at the Town Hall complex even with expansion currently under way, town officials have argued.

A member of the audience complained the public participation process regarding uses of the Naranja site was "just a lot of smoke and mirrors to make the public feel good" and that the Town Council "had its own agenda from day one."

After the meeting, Eggerding said there are so many issues involved pertaining to plans for the Naranja Town site that it should be up to the council, not the task force, to resolve them.

Some have complained that it's the same people attending the meetings who are raising all the fuss over the possible location of town facilities at the park site. In time there would be little objection if the park were fully developed with all the recreational and cultural uses planned, they say.

But nearly all observers agree the entire storm that has been raised over placing town facilities at the park site could have been avoided entirely had the council been more up front about its desires and not conveyed the impression that planners and the public were being given a "blank canvas" to work with.

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