OV citizen group forms to combat big boxes - The Explorer: Import

OV citizen group forms to combat big boxes

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Posted: Tuesday, August 3, 2004 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:48 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

A group of Oro Valley residents is looking to have its say on how the town regulates the development of superstores in the future.

Calling themselves an ad hoc committee, the group plans to study, and possibly assemble, a Big Box Ordinance for the town.

Spokesman Chet Oldakowski announced formation of the group during a call to the audience at the July 21 council meeting.

Oldakowski also is the spokesman of the group "Stop Outrageous OV Giveaways" looking to stop two of three multimillion-dollar sales tax rebate deals between the town and developers.

He said there is no direct connection between this new committee and the group seeking a referendum for the incentives, however, he said "let's face it, a lot of the same people are involved here."

Oldakowski, in a telephone interview following the council meeting, said it was such development deals coupled with recent persistent rumors that a Wal-Mart is being planned in Oro Valley, that led him and other residents to revisit the idea of a big box ordinance.

Both town council members and representatives of the Phoenix-based Vestar Development Co., which is developing the property, have denied the Wal-Mart rumors.

However, Commercial Retail Advisor R. Craig Finfrock, managing member/designated broker with Commercial Retail Advisors, LLC, in a Web site promotion for the Foothills Business Park property he represents south of the Oracle Crossings site, states there is a 300,000 square foot Super Wal-Mart being planned as the anchor in a power center on 100 acres at Oracle and Tangerine Roads. Finfrock would not comment specifically on where he got information on the development, saying the information came from colleagues.

Right now, there are about four Oro Valley residents independently and informally researching how other cities and municipalities have handled big box development, Oldakowski said, with the hope of finding some answers on how the town should do it in the future.

In development language, large-scale retail facilities such as Target and Wal-Mart often are called "big boxes," "megastores" or "superstores."

Oldakowski told the council July 21 the members of the Big Box Ordinance group believe in the abilities of the newly elected council, but also realize they are busy with the budget process and "much, much more."

"We believe if we produce a viable and syntactically correct Big Box Ordinance, you will give it serious consideration," he said.

Oldakowski told the council the group intends to go the process alone, although any town resources, such as use of a meeting room or legal staff, would be "deeply appreciated."

"We will try to prepare the text of the ordinance and perform the research, as much as possible, ourselves," he said, adding in a subsequent interview the group would be ready to present findings in two weeks.

Oldakowski said, although he knows the group has no official standing, he and the other group members hope their efforts will be taken seriously.

After hearing the announcement at the July 21 meeting, Councilmember Barry Gillaspie said he was "impressed with the citizens' interest in a big box ordinance." He requested the council hold a study session no later than September to hear what the group has to say.

Mayor Paul Loomis said looking at a big box ordinance in Oro Valley is "something that has been on the radar" for council and staff, although he does not believe a citizens committee is needed to address the issue. He said town staff is qualified to handle such matters.

"There is a need to look at a big box ordinance and decide whether one is needed for the community," he said.

As Oro Valley continues to grow and as new areas are identified for commercial development, Loomis said the need to review a big box ordinance has resurfaced.

"The impact a big box can have on a community or on a shopping center can be significant," he said.

Loomis said he expects staff to be given some sort of direction in regards to such an ordinance at the next regular council meeting Aug. 4.

Oldakowski and the citizens referendum group "Stop Outrageous OV Giveaways" have been working to stop two incentive deals and in May filed a lawsuit against Oro Valley in Pima County Superior Court for refusing to accept petitions to refer to voters a $6.5 million incentive for BP Magee LLC to build a proposed shopping mall adjacent to Fry's shopping center at the southwest corner of Oracle and Magee.

The deal gives the developer 46 percent of sales tax revenue generated over 10 years from the development, called Oracle Crossings, to include shops, restaurants, a bank and offices.

The group also is raising money to file a second suit against the town for refusing to accept petitions for a second incentive deal approved by the council April 7 with Vestar, representing $23.2 million or 45 to 50 percent of sales tax revenue generated over 16 years by its proposed 900,000-square-foot regional power and entertainment center - Oro Valley Marketplace - at Oracle and Tangerine roads, directly across the street from Catalina State Park.

On June 10, Vestar filed a motion in Pima County Superior Count to intervene in the law- suit as a defendant, joining the town of Oro Valley and Town Clerk Kathryn Cuvelier. The motion was scheduled to be heard 10 a.m. July 26 in front of Judge Jane L. Eikleberry. Vestar projects are typically built for repeat tenants such as big-box retailers Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Ross Dress for Less, Target, Home Depot, Lowe's and AMC Theaters, according to a Nov. 1, 2000 issue of Retail Traffic magazine.

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