The Oro Valley Town Council at its Aug. 1 meeting "went back to square one" on changes to the General Plan for development in Neighborhoods 11 and 12 of Rancho Vistoso by retreating from a decision it made just two weeks earlier.
The council's actions make moot efforts by Citizens for Open Government to gather enough signatures on petitions to place Vistoso Partners' Neighborhood 11 development plans on a referendum.
Vistoso Partners wants to build 89 homes on 60 acres of what is now zoned for open space and low density residential development in Neighborhood 11.
The council made the Citizens for Open Government move moot by voting 3-2 to reconsider its July 18 approval of amendments to the General Plan for Neighborhood 11 and rescheduling the item for Sept. 19 with a study session to be scheduled sometime before.
The reconsideration vote on Neighborhood 11 essentially cancels out the council's July 18 approval.
Hector Conde, chairman of Citizens for Open Government, said the group will continue to collect signatures to have the Neighborhood 11 question placed on a ballot because of the group's "doubts" concerning the council's action.
"They voted to reconsider their vote, but they didn't rescind their ordinance at the same meeting," Conde said. "We're not sure that's enough to nullify the action. Unfortunately, it appears that this was done to sabotage our efforts and confuse the citizens. The council seems to be determined to consciously assault both the open space at the (Honey Bee) canyon and the rights of citizens."
At the same time, the council voted unanimously to withdraw its July approval of an amendment to the General Plan that would have advanced Vistoso Partners' efforts to build 116 single-family homes and 88 casitas on 360 acres in Neighborhood 12. This also will be addressed at the Sept. 19 meeting.
Citizens for Open Government earlier this year collected enough signatures to have Neighborhood 12 issues previously approved by the town council placed before voters in the town's March 12 primary election.
The council's vote approving reconsideration of the Neighborhood 12 General Plan amendment will have no effect on that election.
The Neighborhood 12 issues approved by the council months ago involve a preannexation agreement between the town and Vistoso Partners. The agreement required the town to approve the annexation of Neighborhood 12 as well as amendments to the town's General Plan and Planned Area Development proposals by Dec. 15 to avoid having to pay Vistoso $500,000 for two reservoir sites totaling 1.6 acres that would have served the two areas.
The March 12 election date made that deadline impossible to meet by postponing any decision on Neighborhood 12 until after the election.
In approving amendments to the General Plan for both neighborhoods at its July 18 meeting, the council attached some stiff considerations.
Commitments by Vistoso Partners to purchase approximately 125 acres owned by ITC Corp. north of Neighborhood 12 and to dedicate the property, as well as about 30 acres Vistoso Partners owns in Neighborhood 11, to the town to be preserved as open space.
Commitments from Vistoso to provide funds for and construct a trail system starting from a two-acre trailhead near the southwest portion Neighborhood 11 and connecting, via northern Honey Bee Wash, to Honey Bee Canyon Park.
Dedication to the town of an acceptable site for a water reservoir in Neighborhood 11.
Open space wildlife corridors at least 300 feet wide along riparian areas unless mitigation measures are taken or existing conditions exist to buffer the areas from the effects of development.
Vistoso Partners sent a letter to Town Manager Chuck Sweet objecting to the considerations being sought on the grounds that they would be more appropriately addressed when Vistoso asks for an amendment to its Planned Area Development proposals.
Vistoso, in the letter, asked that the town council reconsider the approval granted July 18 for General Plan amendments and postpone the matter until the Planned Area Development changes are submitted to the council.
Before the July 18 meeting, Councilmembers Werner Wolff and Bart Rochman had expected requests by Vistoso for Neighborhood 11 and 12 General Plan amendments to be continued since the council previously had discussed holding a study session on the requests before making a decision.
At the July 18 meeting, however, Vice Mayor Fran LaSala moved and Mayor Paul Loomis seconded a motion to approve General Plan amendments for Neighborhood 11. Loomis moved and Rochman seconded a similar motion regarding Neighborhood 12. Both measures passed by 4-0 votes with Councilman Dick Johnson absent.
At its Aug. 1 meeting, however, Rochman moved that the council reconsider those decisions since "legal concerns" were being raised about the actions, a postponement was being recommended by the town manager, and plans for a study session on the issues were being bypassed.
LaSala then asked Rochman why he voted in favor of the amendments in the first place.
Rochman said he did so because it appeared that the council would pass the measures anyway and by voting on the winning side he would have a chance to request reconsideration at a later date.
Under Robert's Rules of Order, a reconsideration of any action taken by the council may be requested only by a councilmember on the prevailing side of a vote.
LaSala argued that the subject "has been studied to death," that it was time for the council to "bite the bullet and move on."
He and Loomis opposed the reconsideration.
"The subject has been studied and studied again, pulled back by the applicant, and put forward again," Loomis said. "This could go on forever.
"Action taken by the council (July 18) established the starting line (in terms of considerations sought from Vistoso Partners) and with reconsideration we go back to square one. I'm concerned that we keep spinning our wheels on this issue," he said.
Loomis and LaSala are especially concerned that the council not retreat from its goal of getting as much open space as it can in negotiations with Vistoso Partners.
Reconsideration of action on Neighborhood 11 passed on a 3-2 vote with Rochman, Councilmembers Dick Johnson and Werner Wolff in favor and Loomis and LaSala against.
Noting how that vote went, LaSala seconded Rochman's motion for the reconsideration of previous Neighborhood 12 General Plan approval and then moved for the September continuance.
"I guess the handwriting is on the wall for this," LaSala said before the motion to reconsider was seconded by Rochman and passed by a 5-0 vote.
In other action, the council sent back to the Development Review Board a request from AT&T Wireless to locate a telecommunications facility with a 62-foot-high antenna at the northeast corner of Rancho Vistoso Boulevard and Quiet Rain Drive within the Estates at Honey Bee Ridge.
The request had been denied by the Development Review Board in June and that denial was being appealed to the council.
Company representatives sought a continuation of their request until September while they made attempts at refining the proposal to better fit in with the landscape.
Councilmembers, however, voted unanimously to return the item to the Development Review Board because of the extensive changes being discussed and directed town staff to notify residents of the date of the DRB review.
The council also approved a $236,000 contract with BRW Inc. for consulting services related to the update of the town's General Plan.
The town's Focus 2020 General Plan is meant to be a reflection of the community's vision of how it wants to develop in terms of economy, culture, public safety and other areas and an outline of how it intends to fulfill those goals.
Under requirements of Arizona's Growing Smarter and Growing Smarter Plus legislation passed in 1998 and amended last year, the town must approve a General Plan and schedule an election seeking voter ratification by Dec. 31, 2002.
Oro Valley hopes to put the next update before voters in November 2002.