Oro Valley's parks to be - the 212-acre Naranja Town Site and 40-acre West Lambert Lane Park - have been very much on the minds of residents in recent days.
At West Lambert Lane Park, bounded on the east by La Canada Drive, the south by Lambert Lane and the north by Canada Hills Drive, apparent confusion over a six-year-old master plan for the park has helped intensify a furor over access to trails and the invasion of the privacy of residents whose property line is only a short distance away from the proposed trail.
Meanwhile, addressing controversial plans for locating town buildings on the Naranja Town Site, a former asphalt-mixing plant site on the north side of Naranja Drive, about one-half mile east of La Canada Drive, a task force has unanimously voted to have those buildings located in one area of the park rather than having them dispersed in different areas.
The vote to recommend the consolidation of buildings to the Naranja Town Site Executive Committee however, was based solely on orders to the task force from the Town Council to choose one of two alternatives. It was backed by town employees serving on the 16-member panel.
In a separate vote in which town employees did not take part, the task force agreed to request that the executive committee exclude the town buildings in its recommendation to the Town Council so as to reflect opposition to those buildings, except for parks maintenance and operations facilities.
The executive committee will review the task force recommendations at a Sept. 10 meeting at 6 p.m. in the Oro Valley Municipal Court building in the Town Hall complex at 11000 N. La Canada.
Over the past year, after numerous public hearings and working with consultants, a plan was developed for recreational and cultural uses at Naranja that would include a performing arts center, community center, outdoor amphitheater, pools, tennis courts, trails and playing fields for softball, volleyball, soccer and baseball.
Late in the process, as plans for the park were being more fully developed, town officials indicated they would need from 12 to 15 acres of the site for town buildings.
The town's building plans include housing the town's Public Works Department and water utility administration in an 11,000 square-foot, two-story community center building on 2.3 acres, operations and maintenance quarters in three two-story buildings totaling 38,000 square feet on 7.8 acres and a Police Department training center in a 20,000 square-foot building on three acres. All would be located in the southeast portion of the park site.
Opponents have also raised questions as to the legality of placing town buildings on a site they say they were told was intended for purely recreational uses.
Bond counsel Gust Rosenfeld has advised the town that there were no restrictions on the $2.6 million excise tax revenue obligation bonds used to purchase the site. Recreational and cultural activities were indicated to be the anticipated uses, indicating the exact use of the site was not yet clearly established, the firm indicated in a memo to Town Manager Chuck Sweet.
No development is expected to take place at Naranja for at least three years.
West Lambert Lane Park
At West Lambert Lane Park, acquired by the town in 1996 and master-planned two years later, Canada Hills residents Bill and Danuta Kemp have collected signatures from more than 200 residents in opposition to Oro Valley's plans to locate a portion of one of two loop trails near their home.
The Kemps are also opposed to providing access to the trails from Canada Hills Drive, a private roadway owned by the Canada Hills Community Association, across private property.
The town is spending $150,000 to develop trails and to build a parking lot at the southern end on Lambert Lane west of La Canada for about 10 cars.
At the northern end, where the Kemps live, a nearly half-acre of privately owned land off of Canada Hills Drive must be crossed to get to a trail access path. This parcel was believed by both the town and the La Canada Community Association to be owned by the association.
Without this access, Canada Hills residents would have to go clear around to Lambert to enter the park.
The Kemps, who have lived in their home for 10 years, regard opening the area to hikers as an invasion of their privacy although it has been used by outsiders long before Oro Valley became a town.
Bill Kemp told La Canada Community Association board members at an Aug. 28 meeting in the Nanini Library, 7300 N. Shannon Road, that he was unaware of where the trail would be until he returned from vacation and found in the mail a notice sent to all area resident of a groundbreaking ceremony for the trail. The ceremony was held while he was away.
Up to that time, property owners were not advised or made aware of the Parks and Recreation Division development plans for the park, much less property owners, he said.
The town, however, had held several meetings with area homeowner association representatives.
Kemp accused town officials and association board members of "playing loose with my property rights."
In examining park plans, Kemp said he discovered the property line for the trail was only about 10 feet from his property line. The discovery led to inquiries as to the ownership of the triangular section of property that was to be the entry way into the park.
The property is owned by the Canada Hills Land Development limited partnership, a subsidiary of Scottsdale-based Harvard Investment.
That point was missed by both the town and the community association. It was assumed the association owned the land.
Some of the residents told board members they signed petitions circulated by Kemp and others after being told by Kemp that the town planned to install lighted tennis courts and a parking lot off of Canada Hills Drive.
That information, Oro Valley Community Development Director Brent Sinclair said, was based on a master plan developed several years before the town purchased the Naranja Town Site in 2000. Since then, those proposed uses for the West Lambert Lane Park, have been switched to Naranja, he said.
The town's only plans currently for the park are for the trails, parking lot and eventually, rest rooms.
What occurs beyond will depend largely on what development takes place at the Naranja Town Site and the wishes of Canada Hills area residents, Sinclair said.
Had they known that was the case, some residents said, they would not have signed the Kemp petitions.
"All we're looking to do is put a lane through to provide access in a way that will keep everyone happy," Sinclair said.
Years ago, when the initial $14.5 million master plan for the park was adopted, a number of meetings were held with area residents, but later, when the council gave staff its marching orders for a scaled-down version, no meetings were held, based largely on previous support for park development, Sinclair said.
Another access path farther away from the Kemps' home had been proposed, but discarded because of its steepness and the cost of grading to make it more accessible. The Kemps would prefer this access path.
The Canada Hills Community Association had agreed to provide trail access when it was assumed the group owned the land.
Now, however, everyone seems to be backing off because of the Kemps' protests.
Paul Bowen, former general manager for Canada Hills Land Development and current project manager for Harvard Investment, said the developer might be interested in selling the property to either the town or the Canada Hills Community Association depending on residents' support for opening the area to trail access.
The developer is holding back on any decision on who to sell the land to in order to find out first what the majority of residents want, Bowen said.
Other options include keeping the land private property and preventing access to the trails from the parcel so as to avoid liability problems by setting aside a portion of the site for trail access.
Kemp faults both the town and the community association to some degree for not clearing up the ownership question and chastised the town for sending out 2,000 invitations to the groundbreaking encouraging residents outside the area to believe they could access the site from the privately owned Canada Hills Drive.
The town had begun extending the trail to Canada Hills drive across the parcel owned by the Canada Hills Land Development subsidiary, essentially trespassing to do so, but halted the work when the subsidiary's ownership was discovered.
Kemp said the town as developer "bears the burden of acting to preserve the best interest of its citizens, especially those whose property may be affected," and to "respect the rights of adjacent and area property owners."
Inadvertently or not, those rights have not been protected, he said.
Councilmember Dick Johnson said if residents aren't interested in providing access to the site from Canada Hills Drive, the town could just create a cul de sac, with perhaps benches and a ramada, and make the top of the trail a turnaround. Residents then would have to go around and come in from Lambert Lane.
As far as giving residents notice of plans for the site, Johnson said, the item has been on the council's agenda off and on for the past two years.
"You can lead them to water, but you can't make them drink," Johnson said of the Canada Hills residents.