Kids' safety concerns raised at a Sept. 18 Oro Valley Town Council meeting won the day for opponents of a proposed 160-home development at the southwest corner of Tangerine Road and La Canada Drive.

Initially, more than 200 homes were planned for the site.

Responding to parents' concerns, the council postponed indefinitely its review of a request for rezoning that would have included a new road tying into Glover Road and provided a direct link to residential streets inundated by children attending Wilson K-8 School.

The action was just what residents such as Ken Laszczak had hoped for, not because of their differences with the developer, but because "constituencies within the town have torn apart any compromise that we can work out with the developer," he told the council.

Residents were opposed to any development road connecting to Glover in the southwest portion of the nearly 73-acre project and suggested instead that entry be provided along La Canada and a bridge be built across a wash south of Tangerine and west of La Canada to provide access into the development's interior roads.

While the town's policy generally is to oppose bridges over riparian areas, the council agreed that in this case decreasing densities in the western portion of the project was more important than retaining open space in the wash area.

Town planners opposed any closure of access to Glover that would deny entry to emergency vehicles. The suggestion of a bridge in the eastern portion of the development is being reviewed to determine how an extended cul de sac can be avoided to shorten turnarounds for emergency vehicles.

Amphitheater School District Board member Nancy Young Wright also raised concerns about the impact the development would have on Wilson and called on the council to implement a policy adopted by the board in April 2001 to request that local governments ask developers for educational donations of land or money in all rezoning cases.

Young Wright told the council the district estimated this development would lead to 99 more students, but that only 19 spaces were expected to be available in the kindergarten through fifth grades and 20 spaces in grades six through eight.

Planners, however, took exception to Young Wright's estimates of the impact the development would have on Wilson's enrollment, noting after the meeting that the development proposal was presented to district officials a year ago and received no negative comment.

In correspondence sent to the district, the enrollment impact was estimated to be only about half what Young Wright described, said Carl Winters of Principal Planning Resources, designers of the Tangerine-La Canada project.

In a subsequent interview, Young Wright said the correspondence from the developer may have been sent so long ago that the district no longer has a record of it. She also acknowledged that the figures she presented to the council on Wilson's future capacity were incorrect and that instead of 39 students, it was closer to 71 with 38 spaces available in kindergarten through fifth grade and 33 spaces in grades six through eight.

The council also approved on a 4-1 vote an amendment to the town's Oracle Road Scenic Corridor Overlay District to include three properties totaling about 22 acres on the south side Rams Field Pass, east of Oracle Road and north of the Honeywell site that the town expects to annex within the next year.

The change would allow for residential development of properties currently zoned in the county as Campus Park Industrial, which allows office, manufacturing and warehousing uses. The revision was a key point in land owners agreeing to any annexation proposal.

The change also would give Oro Valley greater control over building heights in the three separate parcels and control over setbacks and landscape buffers in two of the three parcels.

Mayor Paul Loomis cast the lone vote against the amendment after raising concerns of the town's continued loss of valuable industrial space and its need to bring more jobs into the community.

In terms of economic impact, town planners estimated annexation of the 15-acre parcel and construction of 75 homes would produce $180,000 in one-time sales tax revenues, $150,000 in water connection fees and $60,000 in annual state-shared revenues.

Without the residential conversion, the only revenues the town would receive would be about $200,000 in water connection fees, according to town estimates.

The council had also hoped to make some progress on the controversy over retaining Oro Valley's limitation of one horse per 30,000 square feet on residential property or increasing the number to one horse per 10,000 square feet to eliminate existing inequities.

The controversy arose after Sheryl Gonnsen, owner of the Head to Tail Riding School, had sought a variance from the Board of Adjustment that would have allowed her to keep as many as 15 horses on 3.5 acres at a property she subsequently purchased at the southeast corner of Loma Linda and Calle Concordia. The board denied the request twice and in May the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-2 to uphold the higher standard.

The inequities problem dates back to the period between 1974 and 1981 when Oro Valley annexed property into the town and allowed owners of horse property the higher number of horses as "legal, nonconforming uses." About 15 percent of the town's horse property owners still retain that right.

In 1981, however, the livestock standard was changed to one horse per 30,000 square feet, even though properties continued to be annexed by the town with the promise of the nonconforming use and more of such uses are likely to be allowed in future annexations.

Gonnsen argued that her right to keep one horse per 10,000 square feet was taken away.

Mediators of the conflict were scheduled to offer a compromise to the council at its Sept. 18 meeting, but were unable to meet in time beforehand to do so. The council will address the issue again at its Oct. 16 meeting.

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