In a 5-2 vote, Oro Valley Town Council enacted an ordinance on Wednesday that will allow the sale and consumption of alcohol at Steam Pump Ranch for special events.

The initiative, brought forward to align with the increasing tourism at the 15.5-acre property, received prior approval from Town Manager Greg Caton and Oro Valley Police Chief Danny Sharp before being heard by council.

“We are anticipating that this opportunity may make the events more fun and more conducive to a variety of interests,” said Caton.

Currently, no other parks in Oro Valley allow the sale and consumption of alcohol, a fact Councilman Bill Garner took issue with before voting against the ordinance. 

“I’m kind of curious why we limited it to Steam Pump,” he said. “If we’re trying to promote economic development and having some type of signature activity and events, providing they are doing it in a proper manner and it’s approved, why wouldn’t we have looked at all our facilities and just do one code amendment?”

While Caton acknowledged Garner’s point, Sharp demonstrated more concern about expanding the ordinance beyond Steam Pump Ranch, saying private parties at parks could “get out of control.”

“Whatever we do needs to be very, very narrow in its focus,” he said.

Sharp said the police department would assess safety considerations, fencing, and volume of people in measuring security needs at Steam Pump Ranch when events are hosted.

Assistant to the Town Manager Kevin Burke said the ordinance would be limited to town-hosted events, though private parties might also be considered. 

The town will have to abide by state liquor laws for permitting process and other regulations.

Resident Bill Adler said alcohol does not fit the theme of Steam Pump Ranch.

“(Steam Pump Ranch) has always been intended that it be an educational and cultural center, and I don’t see alcohol as a part of that,” he said. “I see it as not only being inconsistent – it’s contradictory. This isn’t intended to be a recreational park.”

In other business, council approved a 27-lot single-family residential subdivision on a 6.6-acre property on the southwest corner of Rancho Vistoso Boulevard and Vistoso Highlands Drive.

The applicant heard and rectified complaints from area residents who were concerned about headlight trespass and building height along the south end of the development.

Council initially voiced additional concern over street width and potential dangers with curbside parking, but the measure passed unanimously due to the fact the development was within town code and was satisfactory to the developer and homebuilder.

Still, separate from code compliance, Adler questioned whether the development plans should be satisfactory to town residents or the Conceptual Design Review Board.

“There’s no question in my mind that this is code compliant,” he said. “The question in my mind is why is it so boring? Why is it so monotonous? Why is it so the same?”

Adler, no stranger to Oro Valley council meetings, has also recently been the voice behind objecting to zoning regulations that categorize skilled nursing and memory care facilities to be one in the same.

The issue came to light after a Conditional Use Permit was applied for in the Oracle Vista Centre for a memory care facility under a skilled nursing designation, which Adler said should not be compared given their stark differences. 

Resident John Musolf echoed Adler’s argument on Wednesday.

The next Oro Valley regular council session is scheduled for April 17.

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