A lengthy Oro Valley council meeting on May 16 ended in heartfelt fashion as Mayor Satish Hiremath recognized departing councilmen Barry Gillaspie and Steve Solomon for their service to Oro Valley.
Gillaspie, in his eighth year as a councilman, chose not to run for reelection again, while Solomon failed to collect enough votes in the primary to maintain his seat.
Brendan Burns and Mike Zinkin will officially fill the two open seats on June 6.
Gillaspie became choked up during his closing remarks.
“First I need to just thank the public for allowing me to serve them,” he said. “It really is a privilege. Oro Valley is a tough place, with really wonderful people who know what they’re doing and never drop their guard for a minute, and we all appreciate that. I want to thank my wife, who has put up with me for so many years not being home, and I want to thank the current and past councils. It’s a huge stone to lift, and nobody really gives you any credit for what you really do, and you need to stay positive and keep the big picture of where this community needs to go, and I thank you all and give you my best wishes.”
Gillaspie saved his final thanks for Town staff for their ongoing efforts.
“Value these employees,” he said. “They’re the best. We’ve got the best in Oro Valley.”
Hiremath also became emotional as he awarded Solomon with his plaque. Solomon then took a moment to address the audience and staff.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with the council,” he said. “I think we have meshed very well, and you can see we have a great time along with trying to come to the hard decisions. It’s been great serving on the council, I’ve enjoyed it, I’m glad I was able to help the Town, and as was said, we have a wonderful staff. We also have an enormous amount of volunteers, and I think one of the core things that makes Oro Valley so unique is the number of residents willing to step up for often inglorious jobs.”
The council was in fact faced with a couple hard decisions earlier in the night, the most significant relating to a request for a conditional use permit for a proposed Fry’s gas station to be located in the Mercado shopping center near the northeast corner of La Cañada Drive and Lambert Lane.
The proposal for the seven-pump gas station was met with some resistance by adjacent Cañada Hills residents in an initial neighborhood meeting, particularly in regards to the potential for odor, explosion, the proximity to another gas station (Valero), pedestrian safety in a nearby crosswalk, increased traffic, lighting and noise, and potential impacts to property values.
Following the neighborhood meeting, Fry’s held a second meeting on May 10 to address and negotiate solutions to some of the concerns, the results of which were presented by Fry’s spokesman Jeff Guyette to council at the May 16 meeting.
Guyette said lighting issues are being addressed by restricting hours of operation from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, without any unattended operation.
“That’s something we feel neighbors were very strong about,” he said. “Although competitively, other gas stations can stay open, we understand the concerns. We want to make neighbors happy, and we concede to that.”
Guyette added that the architectural designs, along with the lighting fixtures and company logo have been adjusted to adhere to concerns of neighbors. Additionally, vegetation will be placed in the line of sight of Cañada Hills neighbors to help eliminate unwanted views of the station.
Director of Development and Infrastructure Services Paul Keesler said his research showed minimal increases to traffic and no further endangerment to residents using the existing nearby crosswalk along La Cañada Drive.
Despite the reassurances, several speakers maintained a position against the conditional use permit during public hearing, particularly referencing the duplication of services already offered by the nearby Valero.
However, a few residents and Fry’s shoppers spoke in favor of the gas station, as it would allow them to use Fry’s Fuel Rewards points more conveniently.
The motion initially passed 7-0 in favor of the conditional use permit, but following subsequent discussion on a separate motion relating to conceptual architecture, the conditional use permit item was pulled for a revote. The revote came because the conceptual architecture, which called for potted plants to be located adjacent to the fuel pumps, was disagreeable to Guyette, but the very condition was also listed as a requirement under the conditional use permit item.
The necessity for the potted plants at the pumps was ultimately stricken from the conditional use permit requirements. The revote passed 5-2.
Council also voted unanimously for final adoption of the Town’s $95.4 million budget.