Residents of four homeowner’s associations are butting heads with Davis Development and Properties, LLC over a proposed neighborhood development in proximity to Canada Del Oro’s Highlands Wash.

Known as the River’s Edge/Melcor Planned Area Development (PAD),  Davis Development and Properties, LLC initially pitched the project as a 61-acre, 64 single-family-residential development on the south side of Naranja Drive, approximately one-half mile west of First Avenue.

Still in the preliminary stages, the developer has not yet submitted a formal application to the town, but Don Davis, co-owner of Davis Development, says the project is still moving forward pending results of continued engineering and hydrology studies, given the project’s location in a flood plain.

Plans have changed some since the project’s inception. The latest blueprint is slated for the design of approximately 64 homes on 20 acres. The reduction from 61 acres to 20 acres came following a study by the WLB Group which indicated only about a third of the land was buildable. 

The homes would be erected along the eastern border of the wash in a north-south direction in an area zoned CR-2 single-family cluster, adopted under Pima County’s 1994 zoning ordinances and translated to Oro Valley’s equivalent of a PAD.

While co-owner Rod Davis says the results of the continued engineering studies will ultimately determine the number and style of homes as well lot sizes, a pre-application submitted to the town on Dec. 20, 2013 indicates lots ranging from 6,900 to 40,000 square feet. 

The developer first presented the project to area homeowners associations from Pusch Ridge Vistas I and II, River’s Edge II, Highlands Mobile Home Park and a non-HOA community along the wash’s west bank during a neighborhood meeting on April 14.

For those in opposition, the primary point of concern then – and now – is the potential for increased flooding and erosion, particularly during monsoon season.

While acknowledging the space is zoned residential, area homeowners say further flooding would adversely affect surrounding properties, and that, according to town regulations and standards, should prevent it from coming to fruition. 

Steve Didio, Pusch Ridge Vistas I HOA president, says this would be particularly true for the Highlands Mobile Home Park, a community located near the wash’s south end that was built before Oro Valley became incorporated. 

“Highlands Mobile Home Park is already inundated with flooding issues,” said Didio. “Their concern is if you put a lot more concrete and streets into the wash, from which they are directly downstream, water flow will increase because there is less area for water to run and less absorption.”

For Didio and others in Pusch Ridge Vista I, the development would likely mean cutting into the hillside, bringing into question stability issues.

Site planners with the WLB group acknowledge that before the project moves forward, they would have to prove to the town that the project would have no negative impact – flooding or otherwise – on neighboring properties. 

“Anything we do has to be in full conformance with the Town of Oro Valley’s standards,” said WLB land planner/land architect Rob Longaker. “The basic premise is that we have to meet criteria to build on this site safely, keep the new lots out of harm’s way, but also not adversely affect surrounding properties.”

In order to ensure flooding is not exacerbated, Longaker said portions of the land would have to be raised.

But some aren’t sold on that as a solution.

 “Where is the water going to go?” questioned Michelle Pearson, who lives on the wash’s western ridge. “It has to go somewhere. If they’re going to build the on east bank, then the water is going to push toward the west bank, and we are already facing erosion there.”

While Davis said using fill is a typical practice in contracting, others linked to the project are speculating the expense of raising the land may not be cost-effective, either prolonging or altogether killing the proposal.

“Based on my conversations with Paul Keesler – and not to put words in his mouth – the amount of cost associated with fill, compaction, and stability issues makes the project cost prohibitive,” said councilman Mike Zinkin. “Residents should hold their anger.” 

Also of concern to homeowners is the potential impact the development could have on property values. Data shows that the recent sale of 45 homes in the neighborhoods south of Naranja Drive had an average sell price of $601,000. 

Though exact figures are still to be determined, the majority of homes proposed in the new development would be smaller in size and more densely packed than surrounding neighborhoods.

“The developer has been telling people their property values will increase and that there are some acting as obstructionists and not allowing that to take place,” said Nick Andress, a Pusch Ridge I homeowner. “They’re trying to use the promise of increased property value to establish a coalition, but there is no data to support that. As somebody who has worked in the real estate industry for 23 years, and I review appraisals on a regular basis, the opposite is going to occur for people.”

Don Davis argues that it is common for home values to vary by neighborhood, and says those who purchased homes in the area should recognize the land has been slated for CR-2 development for 20 years. 

Davis also claims he has attempted to discuss concerns like this and others like increased traffic wildlife impact, but says those leading the resistance have been unresponsive.

Didio and others point the finger back at Davis, saying he has been calling nearby property owners without their consent, and using veiled threats to gain project support. 

“It was verbalized to me by Mr. Davis when I asked him if he had considered any of our suggestions from the April 14 meeting, that he had not changed the plan at all, and that if we didn’t get on board he would build even more homes,” said Didio said.

Davis says the conversation was misconstrued. 

“I told them I had plan A and plan B,” said Davis. 

Plan A, says Davis, was to build less homes with larger lots. 

“If we couldn’t do that, then we have to go with plan B, which is smaller lot sizes. I don’t think that’s a threat. That’s attempting to sit down and show what we’d like to do,” he said.

Property owners in the area say the developer is not considering option C – that the homes, given their low elevation, lack of views, and location in a flood plain – may not sell at all. 

“Who’s to say a consumer wouldn’t look at this wash and say, ‘I could spend $400,000 there, or I could spend $400,000 somewhere else,” said Didio. “There’s a very real chance this development doesn’t sell.”

Keesler says the town has not heard from the applicant since April 14. If the applicant chooses to move forward, however, Keesler says the town, bound by existing property rights, would have to permit a subdivision.

However, the town would also retain the ability to review the site layout, roads, drainage, grading, architecture and landscaping.

“Obviously, draining is one of the key issues,” said Keesler.

Keesler says the applicant’s drainage study would require that the development not have a negative impact to areas located upstream, downstream, and across from the associated local floodplain. This includes verifying flood heights and velocities resulting from any development encroachment, verifying that all new homes will be adequately protected against flooding and erosion, and required mitigation improvements to offset drainage impacts so that post-developed drainage patterns mimic or improve pre-developed drainage conditions.

“We still want to discuss this,” said Rod Davis. “We’re still open to meet with them, and I’d like to.”

There is no indication when a formal application will be submitted.

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