Based on county residents' reactions at Oro Valley's most recent Town Council meeting, town officials will have to be awfully persuasive as of March 18 when petitions begin making the rounds seeking support for the annexation of 788 acres bordered by Hardy Road and Calle Concordia on the north, Northern Avenue on the east, La Canada Drive on the west and Magee Road on the south.

Fifteen people addressed the proposal at the council's March 6 meeting and of those 10 were against, three were neutral and two supported the plan.

Within the area are 736 housing units and a population of 1,557, according to town data. The town anticipates a loss of $201,148 in terms of service costs vs. revenues to be collected.

"What leads you to believe we want to be annexed," Michael George, one of the opponents asked the council. "We would prefer that you skip our neighborhood, go around us, do whatever you have to do, but leave us alone."

Teresa Balderson, another resident, accused the council of merely using the proposed annexation as a stepping stone toward getting commercial properties to increase the town's tax base. "If you had something to offer that was so good for us, don't you think we'd be knocking on your door," she said.

"You get immediate gratification" in terms of the revenues annexations produce for the town, "while we get ifs and maybes" in terms of promised services, said Rick Rinehart .

He told a tale of a man deciding between heaven and hell and how the man was impressed by what he was shown in heaven, but even more impressed by the good times being had by the people in hell. So the man chose hell and returned with the devil only to be exposed to fire and brimstrone rather than the revelry previously witnessed.

This isn't what was promised, complained the man in Rinehart's tale. "Oh, yesterday you were a prospect, today you are a captive audience,” the devil replied.

"Thus far I've heard nothing that would make me want to be a part of Oro Valley," said Ferne Van Deusen. "I like being a part of no man's land."

Mark Rolles said if he had his way he would "stay in Pima County forever" but realized that would be unrealistic. "Oro Valley is a model town compared with the alternatives," he said, adding that "if Oro Valley doesn't take us, someone else will. I think this is the best alternative."

Also supporting the annexation was Mark Lewis, head of Lewis Management Services, who said he too was once apprehensive about the area he lives in being annexed, but since it happened believes "it was the best move our community ever made." Lewis said he has found the council approachable and problems more easily solved being in the town.

Those who remained neutral merely asked questions such as whether they would be able to continue using their private water wells, whether their ability to keep horses on their property would be protected and whether deed restrictions on their property would remain in place.

Town officials stressed that annexation would have little or no impact in these areas and in response to fears of Oro Valley one day adopting a property tax, Councilman Dick Johnson told the standing room crowd of more than 100 people in attendance that the town is continuing to build its retail base to bring in the revenues that will make a property tax unnecessary.

The town has until March 18, 2003 to gather the signatures representing 51 percent of the property owners and 51 percent of the area's assessed valuation. Once the necessary signatures are obtained, the proposal is returned to the council in ordinance form. There is a 30-day waiting period once the ordinance is acted upon before the town begins providing services to the annexed area. Statutes require the town to provide zoning as close to Oro Valley's as possible and give the town six months to accomplish this.

Another public hearing will be held next month on the town's plans to annex 654 acres in an area south of the town's boundaries on the north, and bounded by Nor thern Avenue on the west, First Avenue on the east and Suffolk Drive on the south. The town would net $654,189 annually from this annexation of an area that includes 835 residential units and 1,767 residents.

The council also sent artist Matthew Moutafis back to the town's Public Art Review Committe to settle problems Moutafis is having with the committee which had recommended against placing proposed artwork by him in the Albertsons shopping complex at the northeast corner of First Avenue and Oracle Road.

Several of Moutafis' art pieces are scattered around the town, including a large mural in the Town Hall council chamber and a bighorn ram in the Town Hall complex.

Moutafis complained that committee members were "abusive" toward him and that he was "humiliated" by panelists who were biased against his work.

Art Review Committee member David Grigsby said the panel saw Moutafis' proposed art work, two steel benches coated and glazed with copper, as perfunctory and functionally unnecessary to the complex, exuding "no artistic expression."

Mayor Paul Loomis and Councilmember Dick Johnson urged Moutafis, representatives of the Barclay Group with whom he's contracted to do the artwork, and the Art Review Committee to work on a compromise.

Johnson also questioned whether the town is getting all it wants out of the three-year-old requirement that builders put up 1 percent of their projects' construction cost toward financing public art. Johnson suggested the council look at possibly expanding the art review panel while Loomis suggested that smaller projects be combined so larger art projects can be done rather than having bits and pieces of artwork scattered throughout the town.

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