In the wake of concern and opposition from residents living nearby, the Oro Valley Town Council approved the conceptual site plan for a 118-lot subdivision northeast of Ironwood Ridge High School on April 16.

Without any public resistance, during the council meeting on April 2, the council unanimously approved a request by the town’s Development Infrastructure Services Department to rezone a 45-acre lot, which is east of the high school and north of Casas Church. The lot went from having homes at 144,000 square feet per lot to 7,000 square feet per lot. The rezoning would also include building a 120-lot Meritage Homes subdivision on the lot. 

The site plan of 131 acres of houses approved last week sparked public discussion and concern over traffic congestion along Glover Road, Naranja Drive, and La Cholla Blvd., as well as encroachment on nearby housing lots that are adjacent to the lot.

Tim Milbourn, who owns a 3.3-acre lot direct to the west of the proposed subdivision, spoke to council about his concerns for the added congestion this development will bring to the area, citing traffic issues he has seen during his 10 years of living in the house.

“If you go onto Naranja between 7:45 and 8:30 in the morning, you will find traffic stopped,” Milbourn said to the council. “It goes from the school, beyond and backed up onto the other side of La Cholla. The exact same thing happens in the afternoon.”

The town currently plans to widen Naranja Drive to three lanes west of the La Cholla Blvd. with a continual left turn lane.

Other residents, like Sheila Stevens, spoke out against the removal of the trees and saguaros, along with disturbing the habitat for the animals living there despite developers saying they plan to keep and build around larger, older saguaros.

“I don’t care what the developer says. They don’t do what they say they are going to do,” Stevens said.

Knowing there are laws against removing saguaros, Stevens was still skeptical of how the grating would be handled.

“There are ancient saguaros on that property and I don’t care how they manipulate their house around them, it’s not good for them.”

Oro Valley resident Bill Adler expressed his concern that the plan for the development showed the washes being used as trails within the community to connect people to the proposed recreational area.

“All I know is that the riparian areas have always been protected. Even before the ESL (Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance),” Adler said. “We’ve never wanted riparian areas developed or disturbed. So when you talk about protecting riparian areas, that’s standard. And yet, when we talk about putting a path into a wash, that’s not protecting it. Because a path is used for any number of vehicles.”

Paul Oland, who is the senior project manager for The WLB Group and presented the plan to the council, addressed the public’s concerns by explaining to the council they plan to follow the town’s Native Plant Preservation Ordinance and try to set the homes on each lot around the native saguaros. He also said the houses will not be very close together as not to disturb the neighbors’ views.

“The General Plan calls out the majority of this property to have up to five homes per acre. We’re proposing less than one,” Oland said to the council. “I hope that you all will agree that this is appropriated, we will not be burdening the infrastructure, and I think that’s safe to say from a traffic stand point as well.”

On another agenda item and moving forward with a project to design and construct road improvements along Tangerine Road between Dove Mountain Blvd. and La Cañada Drive, the council changed the language in the agreement between the town, Marana and Pima County. The change allows the governments to pick a contractor who might be more qualified even if they are not the lowest bidder.

The next Oro Valley Town Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 7, at 6 p.m.

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