Vistoso Partners' efforts to gain approval from Oro Valley for the development it's proposing in Neighborhood 1 of Rancho Vistoso will carry over into next year.

The latest delay stems from the town's failure to post notices of a public hearing Nov. 13 before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Vis-toso's request for amendments to Planned Area Development proposals in Neighborhood 11.

Two other previous postponements also were the result of meeting notice difficulties.

On Nov. 7, the town council put off requests by Vistoso Partners for amendments to a General Plan pertaining to Neighborhood 1 because Councilmembers Dick Johnson, Bart Rochman and Werner Wolff wanted to be able to weigh Vistoso Partners' Planned Area Development proposals for Neighborhood 1 against concessions the developer would be willing to make to get the amendments.

Vistoso Partners wants to build 89 homes on 60 acres of what has been designated as open space and low density rural development in Neighborhood 11. Town planners contend the impact of that development could extend out to another 30 acres.

After town planners advised Planning and Zoning Commission members Nov. 13 of its noticing problems, commissioners agreed to have a study session addressing a list of concessions Oro Valley is seeking from Vistoso Partners in exchange for development.

The commission scheduled its study session and a concurrent public hearing for Dec. 4, making it too difficult for the council to hold a public hearing Dec. 5 on General Plan amendments in the context of the Planned Area Development proposals because of posting constraints.

Public notice has to be posted on a subject site 15 days before such a hearing and at a public place (usually the Town Hall complex) 24 hours before.

That meant the soonest the council could have taken up Neighborhood 1 would have been Dec. 19., but the scheduling would still have been tight. Now the plan is for a January review of Neighborhood 1 proposals.

Charlie Hulsey of the WLB Group, representing Vistoso Partners, said the frequent postponements have been "disappointing,” but by the same token Vistoso Partners "is in it for the long haul" and continues to work with town officials to achieve its goals.

In August, Citizens for Open Government filed a lawsuit against the town contending that it was improper for the town to refuse to accept petitions circulated by the group seeking a referendum vote on amending the General Plan for Neighborhood 11.

The group obtained the necessary signatures but in the meantime the town council voted to reconsider its earlier approval, essentially erasing that vote and a potential referendum target.

Concessions Vistoso Partners has tentatively agreed to in connection with Neighborhood 1 and Neighborhood 12, where it plans to build 199 homes, including 88 casitas, on 360 acres, include:

Dedicating Honey Bee Canyon Park to the town.

Purchasing 125 acres of the former ITC site in the north portion of Neighborhood 12 and dedicating that to the town, along with 65 acres northeast of Neighborhood 11, and including other areas such as a mesquite bosque at the southern end of Neighborhood 1 and an area from a ridge line south and west of Honey Bee Wash, or from 300 feet south and west of the center line of the wash, whichever is less, to the north and east boundaries of the property.

Dedicating an acceptable site for a reservoir in Neighborhood 1 and providing reservoir sites not already in place to serve both Neighborhood 1 and Neighborhood 12.

Designing all street crossings of riparian areas to be wildlife friendly by providing shrubs up to the shoulders, limiting speeds to 15-20 mph, and providing other protective measures.

Concessions still to be negotiated include:

Amending a supplemental water agreement between the town and Vistoso Partners dating back to 1996 that guaranteed Vistoso a subsidized water rate of $100 an acre foot for the water it uses on its golf courses.

The 1996 agreement was reached in conjunction with the town's purchase of the Rancho Vistoso and Canada Hills water companies that year. Oro Valley wants to boost those rates from the current $100 an acre foot to $516 an acre foot by the 2005-2006 fiscal year. (An acre foot equals 326,000 gallons, or enough water to cover an acre to a depth of a foot.)

Under this agreement, Oro Valley has indicated its willingness to reimburse Vistoso Partners nearly $571,000 for impact fees it was charged by the town while in the process of completing water system infrastructure improvements.

Vistoso Partners doesn't feel the town's water rate demands should be conditions for approval of its General Plan amendment request because it's not a land use issue, said WLB's Hulsey, adding that the concessions sought by the town have been the subject of discussions for the past two years, but never as a written condition until the most recent discussions regarding amendments to Planned Area Development proposals.

Hulsey characterized the town's constant addition of considerations in exchange for development approval as more of a "nuisance" than anything really disconcerting to Vistoso Partners.

Vistoso Partners also is balking somewhat at the town's request that it construct or provide sufficient funds to build a trail system starting at a two-acre trailhead near the southwest portion of Neighborhood 1 and connecting, via northern Honey Bee Wash, to Honey Bee Canyon Park, and dedicate any land within its property necessary for the trail system.

Vistoso Partners wants a proposed extension of the trail system developed further west than town planners have suggested and has some differences of opinion with town staff concerning land value comparisons being used.

Another item of negotiation is the town's bid to have Vistoso Partners dedicate an acceptable area in trade for any additional open space impacted as a result of a Planned Area Development in Neighborhood 12, beyond what would be impacted through the development of existing entitlements.

Areas such as, but not limited to the Honey Bee Archaeological Site or designated areas within Big Wash and the Honey Bee Wash that could be impacted by development may be considered acceptable by the town.

A General Plan amendment advancing plans in Neighborhood 12 was approved by the town council Nov. 7 but may be impacted by a referendum vote March 12 forced by Citizens for Open Government.

The referendum challenges a preannexation agreement between Vistoso Partners and the town.

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