Over the last five months the candidates running for the Oro Valley Town Council have been asked every conceivable question about every issue affecting the town. The Northwest EXPLORER wants Oro Valley voters to make informed decisions May 18. Instead of adding further to his cacophony of querying on issues, we have decided to ask the 10 candidates in the run off election questions that will reveal more about how the candidates make their decisions rather than what they've decided about town issues. We asked each candidate two hypothetical scenarios dealing with land use and economic development. We have drafted these scenarios to have a sense of reality to them but made them sufficiently vague so that no reader could mistake them for being real. The candidates were limited to 1,000 words total to answer the two scenarios.
Scenario 1: The town is trying to annex about 600 acres surrounding a busy intersection south of town. All four corners of the intersection have significant commercial development, including several large retail shopping centers. It is estimated the commercial centers will generate about $1 million a year in revenue for the town, while the annexation will only add about $500,000 in annual costs to the town. The annexation has generated equal amounts of support and opposition from residents in the annexation area and the town has just more than 50 percent of the property owners' signatures to meet the requirements for annexation. However, the town doesn't have enough of the assessed property value required to complete the annexation (Ed. Note: annexations require more than 50 percent of property owner signatures who represent more than 50 percent of assessed value in the annexation area). The owner of a 15-acre vacant lot south of the intersection is the only other property owner known to the town willing to sign the petition. If he signs, it will give the town the needed assessed value to complete the annexation. The property is zoned for light commercial uses but the owner wants to build apartments on the site, something the zoning won't allow and which is vigorously opposed by nearby homeowners (none of whom have signed the annexation petition and are no threat to the annexation effort by seeking to have their names removed from the petition). He has previously sought a zoning change from Pima County to build the apartments; yet, despite the county's General Plan allowing for zoning that would permit the apartments, the zoning change was denied due to vigorous neighbor opposition. There are nearly a dozen apartment complexes within two miles (north and south along a major six-lane road) of the vacant property. The property owner wants a preannexation agreement that will require the town to approve a zoning change to give the property the zoning needed to build the apartments in exchange for his signature. The one year deadline to complete the annexation is just two days away. What will you recommend the council do?
Two Year Candidate Answers:
Ken "K.C." Carter: One thing is quite clear to me on this issue. I would say that the manager mishandled this situation in the fact that the entire transaction boils down to a 48-hour crisis which makes it a no-win scenario. Several days, or maybe even weeks earlier, the entire procedure should have been discussed and all of the forth coming problems would have been in the daylight and could have been better solved. One of the difficult items is that not all facts are given to us to help in giving an answer to scenario one. We know there that there are a dozen apartments close to this location, so the building of another complex of apartments would seem to be overbuilding. What else can the owner use the land for? To keep the public trust and faith in the council, I would not grant the right to build these apartments.
Conny Culver: Community building is done largely by private individuals on private land, based on public provision of infrastructure, recreation facilities, cultural quality, and open space. Given the fact that amenities provided by the public sector create community interest as to how the land is used, is in many ways the equivalent to the private rights of landowners. Until we take appropriate steps to include societal interest, we will continue to allow inefficient, costly growth that will negatively impact our quality of life. In Scenario One there was no indication the property owner who withheld his signature to complete the annexation had explored other uses for his property after denial of a rezoning to allow apartments. Does this mean we must accept the idea that land, regardless of ownership, carries the right of speculation and wealth notwithstanding the effect such rights may have on the public interest? The proximity of this property to existing commercial operations provides this landowner with viable alternatives to apartments and, therefore, I would be unwilling to enter into a pre-annexation agreement granting a rezoning. PLANNING is the key. Why were all these issues not resolved long before the deadline? Crisis management is not how I believe a town should be run. Have we learned from past mistakes, or are we repeating our previous ones? The issues presented herein should have been addressed long before the deadline arrived. Trying to meet the deadline seems a lowest priority as there is far too much to be accomplished. I would launch neighborhood meetings to explore alternatives. Clearly we would benefit from the sales tax revenue from the existing commercial development. Equally clear is the fact existing neighborhoods must be considered and protected. There can be development that benefits existing communities. The answer is to identify appropriate needs, arrive at a mutually advantageous solution for the existing community, produce revenue for the town, and approve a development that will be of benefit to all. This appears to be an annexation that should be pursued after the above issues have been resolved. As a trained mediator, I believe we can establish common goals and result in a mutually acceptable outcome.
Dick Johnson: What do you expect from your elected officials when making major decisions? Hopefully they are considering the following: 1.Is it legal? 2.Does it balance the rights of all concerned? 3.Is it fiscally sound? 4.Is it in the long-term best interest of the citizens of Oro Valley? This is exactly what I do when faced with a complex major decision - no "finger in the wind" to determine the political correctness of my decision. After thoroughly evaluating this scenario and the facts as presented, I am unable to make a recommendation without additional information. I base this on the following questions that remain unanswered. There are serious legal questions as to the commitment to rezone or "contract rezoning" as part of a pre-annexation agreement. As such, it does not "pass muster" with me and I would not support it. We do not know the financial position of the hypothetical town. There is no understanding as to the level and rationale of the opposition to the apartments. The opposition appears to be only from people in the proposed annexed area. What about the citizens of the town? There is no information as to the use of this property under the town's General Plan. What if any meetings and discussions have taken place with the property owner, neighbors, and the town? What is the impact if the annexation map is redrawn to exclude the property at issue in this case? What type of apartments are proposed and what will be the quality of the apartment community? Decision making by the Town Council is a very complex issue that is dependent on each situation. It is imperative that a councilmember research the facts and consider the four requirements enumerated at the beginning of my response prior to final action.
Bart Rochman: In responding to the two scenarios as well as other issues that come before the council, I believe it necessary to be concerned about primary issues. Issues such as safety for all citizens, the ramifications to our taxpayers (our ability to provide quality services within our financial means) and the legality of the proposal need to be considered. Oro Valley citizens will not be well served if special interests control the agenda. With these basic issues in mind, let me address the two scenarios. Scenario 1 creates a very challenging situation for council action. An important fact is that the property owner is requesting a pre-annexation agreement which would require: (1) the property owner's agreement to annex the property to the town and (2) the town to approve the zoning change which would allow the building of apartments. Based on my experience this would appear to raise an issue known as contract zoning which is controlled by Arizona law. This requires the council to obtain an opinion from legal council before proceeding. If the legal opinion advises that such action is not acceptable under state law, the town should attempt to convince the property owner to annex the property without the agreement. After annexation the owner should work with surrounding town residents to reach a solution that would be acceptable to both parties. The owner would be exhibiting actions worthy of a good town citizen by: (1) assuring a successful annexation and (2) working with the neighbors to build a successful quality project in the town. If the property owner and the residents act responsibly, the result will be a win/win situation. The town will receive the revenue (taxes) from the four corners of commercial development, the property owner and nearby residents will have a project that they were instrumental in planning together and the town will now be responsible for all safety factors in the new area which already impacts the town.
Four year candidate Answers:
Don Cox: A preannexation agreement is a negotiating tool available to both a municipality and a property owner that may have long-term implications. These agreements must be approached with caution and weighed carefully. They should be the exception and not the rule. This particular request by the property owner may violate state statutes and render the basic question of this scenario moot. Having said that and faced with a legal preannexation agreement, it would be my responsibility to ensure that all review processes mandated by town codes are met. These would include multiple public hearings where the concerns of the local neighbors and others would be heard and addressed. In addition, I would vigorously exercise my fiduciary duties to all of the citizens of Oro Valley. In the scenario there are two key facts. First is that a majority of the citizens in the area to be annexed support the effort. Secondly, there is net income to the town of $500,000. This business generated income along with other business generated income, much of which comes from non-Oro Valley residents, will go far to offset the possibility for an additional local personal property tax. If a legal agreement with the outlined scenario facts were presented to me I would insist on the following condition, prior to giving my support: 1. The property owner must make application for a zoning change and meet the standards set forth in the Oro Valley Zoning Code. The change in zoning will be reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission and they may make recommendations to the Town Council as if the property owner was applying for a zoning change without a preexisting agreement. 2. All development on the property will be subject to the Oro Valley Zoning Code.The Development Review Board will review the project and make recommendations to the Town Council. 3. Because there are several apartment complexes close to the proposed site, the property owner must demonstrate a clear and convincing argument (to a majority of Town Council members) that there is a market demand for additional apartments in the area. Failure to do so will result in the agreement being voided. 4. The Town Council would have the right to attach conditions to the development that may or may not have come from the aforementioned citizen advisory groups. 5. Failure to comply with any of the final conditions set forth by Town Council will void any prior agreement. The time deadline would have no bearing on my position.
Helen Dankwerth: In answer to scenario one, as councilwoman, I WOULD NOT recommend rezoning at this time for the following reasons: 1.Amending the General Plan so as to rezone commercial property and allow apartments effectively removes said property as a long term revenue producing site (other than a one-time impact fee). 2.Apartments, in addition to not producing sales tax revenues, create increased infrastructure costs in the form of greater school capacity needs and police and fire service; result in increased traffic and road maintenance; and negatively impact the water supply. 3.Pre-annexation agreements circumvent the public process, which calls for at least two public hearings prior to annexation. The two day remaining time span is insufficient for public notice (15 days required). In effect, the property owner is attempting to hold the town hostage. The town should respect the vigorously expressed opposition of its citizens, and has the option of re-visiting the possibility of annexation at a later time should any other (currently unknown) property owners be willing to re-evaluate their positions.
Lyra Done: There are various options that the council could consider. First, the anticipated financial benefits notwithstanding, the council could postpone or abandon the annexation effort. Given that the threshold of more than half of the property owners and assessed property value has not been met, the rule of law provides resolution. Second, the council could reduce the percentage of nearby residents who are opposed to the construction of apartments. This could be accomplished by correcting misconceptions about the effect of apartment construction, requiring specific conditions be met by the apartment construction (e.g., architecture, infrastructure, etc.) the nearby residents desire, or by reducing the number of dissenting nearby residents and property values by acquiring select properties. Third, the council could consider ways to change the construction preferences of the landowner. One possibility would be to offer incentives, which comply with our Economic Policy or possibly additional signage, allowed during their grand opening period for the construction of buildings consonant with the existing zoning. Another possibility would be to become the owner of the land and then sell it subject to the use restrictions desired by the nearby residents. Perhaps the best solution combines the best parts of each of these options. A thoughtful, deliberate solution is not likely to be possible in the two remaining days, and I would recommend the council not rush the decision making process. Once the pressure to make a decision is reduced, the council members should avail themselves to the voices of the nearby residents. Their opposition may be based on incomplete or incorrect information and could be resolved with complete and accurate knowledge. Concurrently, negotiations could be initiated with the landowner to change the destiny or owner of the property. By addressing the issue at these different levels, an acceptable solution is sure to emerge.
Richie Feinberg: I would deny the request by the developer to build apartments based on all of the following: the General Plan, the Zoning Code, town and county surveys and certainly the homeowners who are vigorously opposed to this development. This is a question that involves history, and additional background. This is obvious when you consider that barely 50 percent voted for the annexation. The assessed valuation issue and potential residents' agreement to annex should have been addressed through surveys before attempting the annexation. To further confuse the issue, at the last moment, a property owner appears to offer up his property to make the annexation happen. However, there are terms and conditions to make this happen. Terms and conditions provide objections ie: change of zoning and possible change to "the town" General Plan in order to agree to the deal. Also, this change is vigorously opposed by nearby homeowners, who are potential candidates for future annexation The timing of the "deal" indicates the owner of the 15 acres waited until the last two days to come forward. Is this an attempt to stampede the town to quickly agree to his proposal? Considering the lack of trust of the property owners to the annexation, the requirement for the pre-annexation agreement and questionable changes to the zoning and General Plan, I cannot agree to the annexation. We must think of people first before the Council's convenience of gaining some revenue at the cost of a community's "Quality of Life." I would say it's time to re-connect the dis-connect between the citizens and the Council. And in addition to the real live problems that may exist to consider this very important issue, there are rules, there is a General Plan to guide me. The General Plan of the town states: 4.1.1 LAND USE STATEMENT… " Orderly Growth that focuses on low-density development is especially important to the community." (Are apartments low density?) Community survey in March 2000 Stated: CREATE: …No Apartments. Clearly, financial stability of our town is a community value. However, financial stability, our residents have said, must not be achieved at the expense of the Quality of Life values, which drew most citizens here in the first place. In the final analysis, the zoning for this property does not allow for apartments to be built.
Barry Gillaspie: This scenario describes an unfortunate predicament that should not have happened. As a Town Council member I would have to be responsible for not anticipating the potential for this negative turn of events and I would most certainly be required to scrutinize our management team for failing to manage this situation in an appropriate manner. Contrary to some thinking, a change in zoning classification simply because a property conforms to a suggested land use type on the General Plan, is not guaranteed by law or indicated by good planning practice. Rezoning requests should meet the burden of proof for any number of considerations as defined by the zoning code of the jurisdiction, General Plan and citizen comment. Based on the stated circumstances, the annexation appears to be a good fit for Oro Valley. However, the true cost of the annexation appears less than favorable if the Town acquiesces to the preannexation agreement desired by the controlling property owner. First, the true cost of an additional complex of apartments will cut into the projected $500,000 in revenue by consuming a significant amount of police resources. Second, a preannexation agreement allowing for apartments will remove the 15 acres from production for additional tax revenue generation. Finally, public hearing is provided to us by law in a democracy and it is bad public policy to lock out constituencies through a preannexation agreement regarding a development of marginal value that is being negotiated in the face of pressure tactics. As a vibrant, healthy town with good management and stellar reputation throughout Pima County, I would advocate that we regroup and attempt the annexation under better circumstances, particularly given the fact that the property is not under immediate threat for annexation from other jurisdictions.
Terry Parish: A competent and capable Town Council member will be open minded, results oriented and will explore all possibilities when addressing the balance between town financial stability, and the quality of life issues important to everyone in our wonderful community. It is important for a Town Council member to avoid getting caught up in the emotions of an issue, any political aspects of a decision, and most of all, avoid being presented with false choices or false deadlines. As a member of the Town Council, my recommendations would include a multioption approach. As many of the strategies and realities are interrelated, I will list them in no particular order of priority. 1) Contract zoning is not permitted under state law (future zoning decision in return for annexation signature), nor would it be acceptable to me as an elected official. The scenario described would be a violation of the rules related to zoning through annexation. 2) As the Oro Valley General Plan includes areas outside our current boundaries, the citizens of Oro Valley would have already approved a General Plan, which recommended a specific use for that land. If the Oro Valley General Plan recommended that land be multi-family residential, it would be a significant factor in making a future (after annexation) decision regarding a rezoning. 3) The one-year deadline should not create a false choice. With the size of the annexation and the relatively small number of individuals involved, the town could easily renew the annexation effort and re-gather the signatures, allowing everyone more time to pursue the best option available. 4) Based on the assumption that the land owner would sell the land for a reasonable price, the town could buy the land, approve the annexation, then put the land on the market immediately, with the specific zoning and development restrictions desired by the residents in the area. Even if the town took a $50,000 loss on the transaction, its would be a great investment as the town will receive 10 times that amount every year in additional revenue, while ensuring the land use was what the citizens in the area desired. 5) The scenario explanation does not discuss a significant variable, why the nearby residents are opposed to the multi-family residential use. If the reason was because the land owner intended to over-build the site, or perhaps build apartments three stories tall, or without any recreational amenities for their residents, the Town Council may be able to establish in a pre-annexation agreement that includes provisions that establish a concept such as "if, and only if, a rezoning was granted after annexation, there would be specific requirements for the multi-family development. If these requirements address the nearby residents' concerns, an after annexation rezoning request would likely meet the requirements of the nearby residents, as well as the Town Council.
Scenario 2: The owner of a 50-acre property on the west side of town wants to build a commercial center that will feature two major retail anchors, a movie theater, restaurants and numerous upscale boutique shops. The plan for the development is similar to an outdoor plaza or town square, rather than a strip mall. The property, however, is designated neighborhood commercial in the town's General Plan and currently has low-density residential zoning. A General Plan amendment and a zoning change are needed for the plaza to be built. Because of the intense competition for retail-development investors and high engineering costs for the site, the developer is also seeking an economic incentive deal in which one half of the retail sales tax generated by the plaza is rebated to the developer over a 10-year period. It is estimated the plaza will generate about $1.5 million in retail sales tax annually. There is vigorous opposition to the proposed development from nearby homeowners. More than 100 citizens attended a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in which the General Plan amendment was considered and 20 people spoke against the project and against changing the General Plan. Only three people spoke for the project. Town staff recommended approval; however, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial in a 4-3 vote, citing sticking to the General Plan, neighbor opposition and traffic concerns involving nearby schools and churches as the major reasons for denial. The developer owns a 100-acre property just east of town and adjacent to Catalina State Park in unincorporated Pima County. The property includes an historic ranch house designed by a famous local architect in the 1930s. A petition by an ad-hoc group wanting the ranch preserved was recently presented to the county and the town with more than 1,000 signatures, most of whom were Oro Valley citizens. To sweeten the deal, the developer tells the council that, in exchange for the General Plan amendment, zoning change, and the economic incentive package for the plaza, he agrees to have the 100-acre ranch property annexed by the town and to donate 50 acres of the ranch - including the historic ranch house - to the town as an historic park. The developer agrees to develop the remaining 50 acres under existing zoning - low-density residential. It is estimated the 50 acres to be donated to the town are worth more than $2 million. What will you recommend the council do?
Two year Candidate Answers:
Ken "K.C." Carter: Again, the council is on the spot to get a problem solved and in so doing, may override the wishes of the voting public. I would, as a councilperson, insist that the developer have meetings and talks with the local residents and also the nearby schools, churches and do an extra good job of convincing the voting public that this development was worth considering for the town. Preparing the public for what stores and business shops would be using the so-called mall. Prior to issuing a General Plan amendment and the necessary zoning changes, it must be made clear to the members of the council that the surrounding home owners and other establishments are in a majority favoring the latest developer's plan. To do this, meetings must be held and all parties have a chance to voice the approval or disapproval of the changes being proposed. The giving of the sales tax to the developer and receiving in return the prized ranch site and low density on the remaining land could be an excellent move but all parties must come to terms on this prior to proceeding with the changes on the General Plan and zoning.
Conny Culver: THERE ARE PLANS, AND THEN THERE ARE PLANS THAT WORK Community character, general economic well-being, cultural and social amenities, and ease of circulation, are determined by what occurs as developers utilize the remaining land parcels in Oro Valley. As a council, we must permit development that meets the long term objectives of the town and the General Plan. We know what our community is today, both good and bad. Now, we must set a course for our future. In Scenario Two we are presented with two 50-acre properties that should be developed to benefit the town while providing the landowner a reasonable profit. My first step would be to require meetings of the developer with the neighbors of both the proposed mall and the land adjoining the historic property. As a certified mediator, I would ask all parties to address the issues of traffic, public safety, nearby schools and churches, to assess the desired amenities, and how to best achieve compliance with our General Plan.
The Commercial Center: As for the "incentive deal", the question that must first be answered is to recognize the difference between exploitation and deriving a fair and just return on private investments that do not demand public subsidy for unwarranted enrichment or selfish interests. I also question our responsibility, as a community, to fund the "high engineering costs" for the landowner. As your councilwoman, I intend to be an informed, concerned, responsive leader and elected official who will place community good above personal interests. If the developer chooses to invest its money to engineer an acceptable project, we should work with those neighbors to find an satisfactory compromise that adheres to the existing zoning. The Historic Site: Historic Preservation has become a driving force in Arizona. Unfortunately, during our "boom years", when many homes and commercial buildings were approved, some of our most important historical sites were lost. Perfectly sound historic buildings such as the Rooney Ranch, were demolished. I believe the town should become the owner of the historic property. This would be a win for all of us. Here, we are presented with an opportunity to own an historic structure. I welcome development that is good for our town! I will work to bring prosperity to Oro Valley. Next door to the historic site, we have options. Our community may like to see low density residential (the existing zoning) or perhaps a low intensity commercial development that would not harm the intrinsic value of the historic site and would be acceptable to the existing neighborhood. Upon reaching an acceptable pre-annexation agreement, I would move forward on the annexation with the support of the existing neighborhood achieved by the involvement of the community in deciding their future.
Dick Johnson: There are significant, legal issues with this scenario but having said that, I will assume that this case reflects the current position of Oro Valley. In three years we will have exhausted the budget surplus that has been built up by your present council over the years. Therefore, it is critical that additional revenues be found or there will be a serious cut in services. This proposed retail center does this and is the type of development that our citizens want - upscale and pedestrian friendly. The General Plan calls for neighborhood commercial, which is not significantly different than the commercial zoning requested. I would have the developer work with the neighbors to resolve their differences. My experience working on these types of issues indicate a solution is very likely. The issue of the economic incentive attached to this development presents a situation that we on the council have just faced. They should be only offered when in the long-term best interest of the town. When I consider whether to offer an economics incentive, I look at a number of factors. What is the town's risk? Would the project be developed in the near term without an incentive and if so, would it be the type of retail center we want? Are there significant offsite improvements that benefit the citizens? Will incentives act as a catalyst to attract revenue-producing businesses versus service related businesses that generate no sales tax? How much sales revenue will come from shoppers who live outside our town limits? In this case, I would renegotiate a lower percentage for the developer than the 50 percent proposed with the requirement that the project begin construction within two years or the incentive will be revoked. It is important that citizen involvement in the design and development occur to ensure that lighting, architecture, landscaping, and other important factors be implemented in this project. The donation of the 50 acres with the historic ranch house doesn't go far enough. I would hold out for the entire 100 acres so that it could be added to the open space of Catalina State Park. Both historic preservation and open space are important to me. Often, issues come in front of the council that face objections from neighbors. This is such a case. It is natural to have concerns about any development adjacent to your home. However, these concerns must be considered in context what is best of all the citizens in the town. There are legal rights each of us have as property owners in America. I respect these rights and as a member of the Council, I must weigh the impact of my decision on its effect on all citizens of the town.
Bart Rochman: Once again we have a scenario which requires a legal opinion due to the facts which are: (1) Developer will donate 50 acres of a ranch including an historic ranch house (value more than $2 million) if the town will: (2) pass a General Plan amendment and a zoning change for a plaza to be built by the developer and (3) agree to enter into an economic incentive agreement in which one of the retail sales tax generated by the plaza is rebated to the developer over a 10 year period (estimated at $750,000 per year for a 10 year period). Since the ranch property east of town has no relationship to the plaza on the west side of town, it is necessary to know whether this proposal is valid under the law. If the legality issue is deemed acceptable, we can consider the proposal. While Town staff recommends approval, P&Z voted 4-3 to deny the zoning based on traffic concerns to nearby schools and churches. Of the 100 citizens who attended the hearing, 23 expressed an opinion with 3 in favor and 20 against the project. In addition there is a petition with 1000 signature to preserve the historic ranch house. The council should take the following action: (1) The town should do what is necessary to preserve the historic ranch house and acquire as much of the ranch as possible (2) Encourage additional dialogue between the developer and people against the project to see if some accommodations can be made (3) Further negotiations between staff and developer should take place regarding the basis for the incentive agreement. Information should be secured for the basis of the sales tax sharing. This will assist in establishing a cap on any economic assistance agreement. If an agreement is reached, it must contain a termination clause to assure that the project will start within a reasonable time. (4) Discover why staff and P&Z differ on traffic concerns.
Four year Candidate Answers:
Don Cox: My response is based on the current and future (five-year) fiscal projections of the Town of Oro Valley. As an elected official of the Town of Oro Valley, I am sworn to protect the interests of all of the citizens of the town. Public safety tops the list of responsibilities. Protecting the rights of individuals, to include property rights, is a high priority also. Protecting the citizens from fiscal pillaging is a very high priority. A local property tax would fall into the category of fiscal pillaging. Unless we have business paying its fair share, through the collection of sales tax, much of which will be generated by non-Oro Valley residents, we will be victims of those who oppose good business in Oro Valley. There are four major components to this scenario. The first component is that a General Plan amendment/zoning change must occur. Second, this proposed commercial development contains many of the businesses desired in Oro Valley. The third facet is the economic development agreement(EDA). Lastly is the historic park/residential element. Each component must be examined separately and then evaluated as an entire package. Component 1 - The General Plan has already recognized this property for commercial uses. The level of commercial uses will vary the impact on surrounding uses. These must be identified, discussed and addressed. Traffic concerns are normally successfully addressed through design and flow studies. This seemed to be the greatest concern of the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z). Component 2. - The identified uses(upscale shops, theater, restaurants,etc)have all been identified by various Oro Valley resident surveys as desirable. Component 3 - The economic development agreement requires close scrutiny. First I must determine if an EDA is appropriate. If so, then it should fall within the town EDA policy. Based on my experience and the facts given, a 50/50 split of the sales tax revenues is not in the best interest of the town, UNLESS the "high engineering costs" for development warrant that level of split. What a developer asks for and what a developer will settle for are usually two entirely different numbers. Like buying or selling a home, the listed price and selling price are usually not the same. My real estate experience will allow me to cut through the hype a developer may bring to the discussion. I favor incentive clauses and I would not place a cap on potential income for either side. An incentive plan that benefits both parties should not be restrained. One great area for incentive is the completion time of the project. The sooner the project is completed and generating income the greater the incentive. Component 4 - This, too, appears to be a significant benefit to the entire town. However, there is an economic liability that must be addressed. Once the town has acquired the historic site, money must be available to restore, as necessary, and maintain the site. Grants, private donations and funding from interest groups are good sources of short term outside income. However the long-term fiscal impact must be addressed. This scenario represents the kind of opportunity that can benefit all of the people in our wonderful town. We must make these situations work for all of us. My recommendation is to seek consensus and sculpt a plan for this to work for the benefit of both parties.
Helen Dankwerth: Simplifying a complex scenario, we are addressing: 1. 50 acres on the west side adjacent to a residential area which the developer wants rezoned for commercial use. Homeowners, supported by planning and zoning's recommended denial, are opposed. 2. 100 acres on the east side (unincorporated Pima County) including a historic site which the developer proposes the town annex - permitting him to donate the 50 acre historic site ($2 million value) and developing the remaining 50 acres as low-density residential. Because the town needs sales tax revenue, and being receptive of the residents wishes, as councilwoman, I would propose: 1. Retaining the west side acreage to be developed as low density housing compatible with the existing residential communities and consistent with present zoning - thus addressing traffic concerns while generating one time impact fees. 2. Working together with the developer, annex the 100 east side acres, accepting the (50 acre) historic site donation. This provides the developer with a substantial tax benefit and, in addition to contributing to the town's identity, is a potential income producer via admission fees and ( appropriate vendor) sales tax revenues for the town. 3. Rezoning the remaining 50 east side acres for commercial development consistent with town incentive specifications (i.e: unique, currently unavailable businesses) and sensitive to the existing topography and environment. 4. I further recommend that an incentive program for the proposed "land swap" be offered which is PERFORMANCE BASED, with the amount of the "rebate" tied to ACTUAL, rather than estimated sales revenues - capped at 50 percent, and not to exceed a 10-year period. 5. Incentive monies should be used to help defray ACTUAL infrastructure costs (roads, traffic signals) which benefit ALL citizens. 6. A developer offered "pass-thru" program, whereby incentive monies are used to lower rents, attracting desired tenants earlier than otherwise warranted by "rooftop"numbers. Such a merit-based, creative solution, applying incentives in a business-like and judicious manner without establishing a precedent setting, "carte blanche" approach, would effect a "win-win" resolution for all parties.
Lyra Done: The proposed commercial center certainly describes the desires of some of our citizens attending current meetings. To change the zoning on this property would be classified as a major amendment requiring a super majority of the council. Prior to reaching a decision, the neighborhood opposition and traffic concerns must be addressed by our public safety and pubic services staff. We must be sure these concerns are not substantial or can be handled with appropriate infrastructure. The incentive request does fit within our current town policy and a cap could be placed on the maximum paid. Incentives are being offered in most municipalities and some of these communities have as much as we have to offer investors as ar as quality of life and other demographics. The 100-acre parcel, which could be annexed into the town, and 50 acres donated, which includes the historic ranch house, is commendable. Our historic landmarks are a non-renewable resource and should be protected. The ad-hoc committee is probably in a position or could organize themselves to seek funds for ongoing maintenance of the facility. I would recommend to the council to adopt the agreement because it appears to be a win-win for the town of Oro Valley and the citizens of Oro Valley.
Richie Feinberg: I would deny the General Plan amendment and the rezoning because; 1) There is vigorous opposition to the proposed development from nearby homeowners. 2) The increase of traffic will be detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the nearby churches and schools and this poses a major concern. On the other hand, the developer has proposed a Commercial Center that is certainly in the right direction for the town. I believe this development has definite possibilities to be a great asset to the community, because of the upscale quality of the retail stores and the outdoor plaza. In addition, the developer has generously proposed to donate 50 acres of the historic ranch area. This gesture shows good faith. I would immediately propose to the council for their consideration a special committee of concerned residents, town staff, a council member and church and school representatives to discuss this future project. This committee will not be a one time study session, but an on going discussion group until both sides reach an amiable solution. I'm sure that with resolve, determination and a friendly spirit this project can be worked out. I would open the door for compromise by suggesting the following: 1) The town will not enter in an EDA incentive package with the developer, but will support contributing costs towards the infrastructure for the commercial center, and property adjacent to the historic ranch, and addressing the traffic concerns. 2) I would recommend that the town would accept only 25 acres instead of the 50 acres proposed by the developer. 3) The developer will develop the adjoining property to the Historic Ranch as he originally proposed as low density residential. 4) The town will devote great effort in trying to solve the traffic impact on the schools and the church. 5) I would suggest to the developer to eliminate one of the anchor stores to alleviate some of the traffic dilemma. The opponents to this project must be convinced that the $1.5 million in sales tax revenue to the town will provide a security blanket to prevent a future property tax. In addition, the developer will be providing the kind of retail stores that will keep Oro Valley residents shopping in Oro Valley. There has been a disconnect between the town council, staff and the citizenry of our town for way too long. A new direction has to be initiated and a reconnection must occur between the town and its residents if we want to remain and continue to be the great place our town has the potential to be. The developer and the residents have to be convinced that this process is a new beginning and the council is determined to bring a successful conclusion to this important negotiating process. I truly believe that Oro Valley is a special, unique place for commercial and retail development because of our magnificent views, great weather and our unique natural environment. Incentive giveaways by the council are becoming addictive and 1) they are unnecessary to attract new investment. And 2) The council cannot continue to have referendums and an antagonistic atmosphere between the the council and it's citizens.
Barry Gillaspie: Given that the General Plan already specifies the property as "neighborhood commercial" and, in consideration of the possibility of securing the historic property, I would be inclined to work to make this a successful project for all involved. Neighborhood commercial, versus a full commercial designation in the General Plan, likely resulted due to other (possibly) restrictive factors affecting the property. Examples might include transportation access, lighting or environmental factors. More detail on the facts relating to the P&Z denial would be helpful but competent leadership with attention to detail could accomplish a successful outcome on the property. The developer would be asked to forgo the value of the historic ranch property ($2 million) in favor of $7.5 million in real dollars over the life of the agreement. Prior to and concurrent with consideration of this situation before the Town Council, many of the following issues could be re-worked and I would recommend approval of the combined project subject to the following conditions: 1. The developer must enter into mediation with opposing interest groups to develop compromise solutions for traffic, hours of operation, landscaping and design buffers, hours of use, etc. This proved to be successful for the La Encantada development at Skyline and Campbell in Pima County. 2. This project was stated by the developer as an outdoor plaza or town square and I would attempt to secure that promise by advocating for the prohibition of convenience or pad type developments. 3. As is generally typical for new development, all on-site and off-sight engineering costs generated by the project, including those for traffic, would be borne by the developer, not the town. 4. The project would be subject to future town taxes and laws, as appropriate, and as applicable at the time of adoption. For example the project would be subject to town development standards in effect at the time the plans were submitted, not laws adopted after plan submittal. 5. The Economic Development Agreement would only begin upon final design approval of the project by the Town Council after required recommendation by the Planning Commission and the DRB. This allows negotiated design that favors town design considerations, but does not penalize the developer unduly, because the clock is not started until the development has been approved. 6. The 50 acres adjacent to the historic park would be restricted to R1-144 or R1-43 or a fixed number of houses in consideration of the buffer provided to the historic ranch. 7. The historic ranch would be deeded to the town as the sole owner, and use of the property would be at the sole discretion of the Town.
Terry Parish: As with most complex and challenging decisions the Town Council must make, the town council must address such matters as a representative of everyone in Oro Valley. From the grandparents living on a fixed income who are concerned about property taxes, to working professionals, to the newborn who will grow up in Oro Valley, making decisions that balance the many aspects of quality of life can only be accomplished by leaders that understand popularity is fine for movie stars and other celebrities, but cannot be a factor in making tough decisions required to make sure Oro Valley has a solid economic base, while maintaining and enhancing our quality of life. As with scenario one, it is important to get a handle on the facts, variables and options available to the town council. Separating the various aspects of this scenario into more definable segments will be helpful. 1) Under the Arizona State Statutes (Growing Smarter), a General Plan approved by the voters in Oro Valley could only be amended to the degree needed in this scenario by a super majority of the Town Council. Separately, the applicant would also need to go through the full rezoning process. This must include, the multi-step public meeting requirements. This is an important factor in working through the options available to the Town Council. 2) The major opposition to the plan appears to be based on traffic concerns. It is important that the town council have a clear understanding of these concerns. Traffic and many other aspects of such a project can be effectively addressed through proper design, additional off-site improvement to roadways, business hour restrictions, etc. 3) The scenario includes some level of detail regarding the "number of speakers", "number of citizens at a meeting", "number of names on a petition", etc. It is extremely important that the town council members understand decision making must be with the best interests of all Oro Valley citizens in mind, not just those that have the time to come to meetings, or feel passionately about a single issue. Ninety-eight percent of the citizens never come to a meeting, or directly communicate with the town council. For this reason council members must keep an open mind while studying all the information available to them, including past community surveys, open houses, and workshops. 4) It would be important for the town council to establish an understood and enforceable sequence of events. The town council could approve the tax incentive package, and all other aspects of this scenario by establishing specific thresholds and levels of protection for the town and the citizens. Example: a) Council agrees to tax incentive, but only under the condition that the developer be required to complete the additional off-site road improvement to ensure the traffic and safety issues had been properly addressed and only if the revenue generation from the project commenced within 24 months, at volumes detailed in the agreement. b) The dedication of the historically significant land would include a commitment by the developer to establish an annuity, with the town as the benefactor, which would provide funds to preserve and enhance the historical site into the future.