Objecting to the size and location of recreation areas in a proposed development of nearly 500 homes on 170 acres, the Oro Valley Town Council at its March 19 meeting directed Vistoso Partners to come back with a plan that will make those areas larger and safer.

Vistoso Partners was seeking approval of a preliminary plat that covered 155 lots on three separate parcels totaling 48 acres abutting the north side of what will be Desert Fairway Drive, the south side of Pebble Creek Drive and an extension of La Canada Drive on the east.

Eventually, another 343 homes are proposed to be built on three other parcels totaling about 120 acres to the north as part of the development.

An amendment to a Planned Area Development designation had been sought that would have included an exchange of open space, but as a condition the developer was required to devise a concept plan that included a dispersal of recreation areas for the development's residents.

Vistoso Partners had suggested establishing three recreation areas totaling just under one acre on three parcels and four recreation areas totaling 1.5 acres on the other three parcels.

The amount of land being set aside is less than required under the town's zoning code, but within the requirements of a property with a Planned Area Development designation.

Working with Oro Valley planners, Vistoso Partners has trimmed seven recreation areas down to four, but Councilmembers Paula Abbott and Bart Rochman and Mayor Paul Loomis expressed concerns that the recreation areas were still too shallow and too close to La Canada to be safe. The three voted to continue the request for preliminary plat approval until its April 16 meeting.

Councilmember Werner Wolff voted against the continuance and Vice Mayor Dick Johnson was absent.

Dick Maes, Vistoso Partners general manager, asked the council to reconsider the continuance, arguing that the developer and staff would be able to resolve council concerns by the time a final plat was submitted.

Maes told the council that to deny or continue the request would be unfair to the developer since "no one in this town does a better job of building parks in this area than Vistoso Partners," but his argument was to no avail.

Residents in the area raised concerns about the amount of constructrion traffic already coming into residential areas. This would be the seventh construction project in the area north of Moore Road, and traffic on interior roads are already handling twice their capacity, particularly on Copper Springs Trail with trucks coming in from Tangerine Road, residents told the council.

Police Chief Danny Sharp responded that the department has been writing "dozens of tickets" and "trying everything within our legal authority" to curtail traffic, but enforcement is difficult because many of the construction trucks are legally making deliveries in the area.

The Amphitheater Public Schools District also opposed the development, asserting that the resulting student population would exceed capacity at the elementary school level and "significantly impact" the middle school enrollment.

In other action, the council approved plans for a 10,447 square-foot office and laboratory facility to be built by Gum Technology, a manufacturer of ingredients that extend the shelf life of food products, help food products hold their moisture longer and serve as a food texturizer and flavor enhancer.

The company plans to move into its building on Vistoso Commerce Loop off of Rancho Vistoso Boulevard in Oro Valley by August or September. Staffing there is scheduled to increase from six employees to 11, mostly laboratory and some clerical workers, but within three to five years the company also may be adding a strictly manufacturing facility ranging in size from 30,000 to 40,000 square feet that would double again the number of employees.

The council also approved an amendment to the International Plumbing Code it enforces that will require developers to provide hot water in all tenant spaces within shell buildings that have plumbing fixtures for bathing and washing.

"Some commercial developers do not want to install the piping for hot water, the gas piping or electrical wiring for water heaters and the water heaters in the shell tenant spaces," Building Safety Administrator Terry Vosler noted in a memo to the council. "They want to pass that responsibility and cost on to the tenant.

"Developers argue that shell buildings are not occupied structures and therefore are not required to have hot water. This argument is valid and without a change to the plumbing code the Building Safety Division cannot require that hot water be supplied to shell tenant spaces containing plumbing fixtures for washing purposes," Vosler wrote.

"Hot water or tempered water must be provided to occupied tenant spaces when the space has toilet rooms or plumbing fixtures for washing. Therefore, the tenant will experience additional unplanned work, costs and delays in the opening of their businesses.

"In order to provide hot or tempered water in the tenant improvement, portions of walls, ceilings and floors will most likely have to be cut or demolished," Vosler wrote. "It would be easier and more cost effective to install the necessary components of the hot water system during construction of the shell building."

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