The Keep OV Green Political Action Committee’s mission to reverse recent Oro Valley Town Council’s actions concerning land usage and future development died before it even got started. But that doesn’t mean all are happy with the direction Oro Valley is taking.
“Oro Valley is going to lose their charm,” said Leif Bjoraker, the PAC’s treasurer. “It’s unfortunate that it’s all being developed.”
The group started collecting signatures on three referenda, which they hoped would put a stop to development on two properties (one of which was in town limits). They’ve giving up that mission due to a lack of help and interest, Bjoraker said.
“Everyone’s disenfranchised by the whole process,” he said. “And nobody’s going to want to live here.”
According to the paperwork filed by the PAC, neither Bjoraker nor PAC chair, Cynthia Quare, live within Oro Valley town limits.
The town approved a General Plan amendment and rezoning, on Dec. 6, for a property near the Honey Bee and Big washes, from north of East Tangerine Road to the east of North Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, within the Rancho Vistoso Boulevard loop. The changes, which removed a golf course from the plan, were made at the request of the property owner, according to Tucson Local Media archives.
As it was, the property had been designated for a golf course and houses since the ‘80s. The change allows for slightly less homes than originally planned, and the development area shrunk from 250 acres to 131. Homes will be packed closer together, and the surrounding 119 acres will be dedicated to either the future homeowners’ association or Pima County.
The amendment also dedicated an additional 490 acres of open space to environmental conservation and flood control.
Although the deal came with what might seem like improvements on a conservation level, around 50 to 60 people, including Keep OV Green members, who showed up at the Dec. 6 meeting to tell council that they don’t want to see any development on that land or the L-shaped, 321-acre plot at the north of West Tangerine Road and North Coyote Crossing Trail: state land that the town voted to add to their General Plan and apply a master planned community land use designation.
Keep OV Green was hoping to get enough signatures to send the council’s decisions on these two properties back to the voters. If the voters had reversed the land-use changes to the Honey Bee land, retaining the requirement of a golf course, the plan would not be financially viable to developers, who would abandon it all together, according to the PAC’s website.
Golf courses have taken a dive in popularity. But who’s to say that golf won’t make a rebound, said Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath.
He’s heard from residents that Oro Valley is changing too fast, but he said the speed is by design and will only last another two to three years.
“If we’re going to develop, let’s inconvenience everybody for a short period of time, and then let’s just enjoy life,” he said. “If you have a vision and you have a plan, why not inconvenience everybody for a five, six year period.”
There’s very little developable land left, and in 20 years’ time, the town will pretty much look like it does now, he said.
Hiremath added that it’s a misnomer that Oro Valley owns the land. It’s all owned by someone, and not developing it is not a choice the town has. The town has a say in how it will be developed, the mayor said.
Regarding the state land, the council added to the plot to the General Plan planning zone, there are no developers yet, according to Hiremath, and when there are, they wouldn’t approach Oro Valley because it’s state land.
“Any kind of development that happens, we just want a seat at the table,” he said. “We want it in our planning boundary because we get to control the type of development.”
But Oro Valley would only have a say if the developer chose the town. Being that it’s state land, Arizona is legally required to sell the land to the highest bidder. The developer would then be required to follow the ordinances of whichever jurisdiction it joins.
Hiremath wasn’t even sure why Keep OV Green chose that property to focus on, because developers may not choose to be annexed into Oro Valley. Pima County and Marana also have the property in their respective general plans.
Oro Valley has an environmentally sensitive land ordinance, which requires them to maintain 27 to 66 percent of any property as open space, depending on the type of development. More densely-packed homes would mean more open space around them.
“I can’t think of another way to remain more green than having them follow our ordinance,” Hiremath said. “The town of Marana has been shown to be very friendly to developers.”
Bjoraker, with Keep OV Green, thinks Marana would do a better job at conservation. He also said that Marana has more voters who could oppose rezoning for more development.
Hiremath admits that staying within the county’s planning boundary may be the most environmentally-friendly option. But for that reason, a developer would probably choose either Marana or Oro Valley.
He thinks they may chose Oro Valley, regardless of their environmentally sensitive land ordinance that complicates development, because of the status that comes with an OV zip code.
The town’s public safety record, school system, well-maintained roads and emerging arts and culture makes Oro Valley “better suited for an upper-class lifestyle,” he said. “People are going to want to pay more for the product.”
While Oro Valley’s original vision was for a retirement community, younger people and families have also moved into the town since the ‘70s. Hiremath said government needs to be responsive to the needs of the times and families who want to work, play and go to school close to home.
“We live and die by rooftops and retail,” Hiremath said. “The council feels like we’ve made the best decision possible, given all the facts.”