The long-fought effort to pass a comprehensive environmental ordinance in Oro Valley has ended.
The Oro Valley Town Council on Tuesday, Feb. 16, unanimously passed the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance, a land-use and zoning code amendment that seeks to protect the town’s cultural and natural resources.
The adoption of the ordinance was the product of more than 10 years of discussion, untold staff hours and at least 101 public meetings — most in the past few years.
“I think we have a good ordinance here,” said Oro Valley Town Councilman Steve Solomon.
Solomon, a homebuilder and developer by trade, had been critical of the proposed ordinance in its earlier iterations.
The new version, he said, acknowledges that the human species shares the natural environment with animal species.
“It melds the scientific map with the zoning map,” Solomon said.
Oro Valley planner Bayer Vella told the council that the new ordinance would impact about 3,800 acres in the town. The rules would apply to any areas the town annexes in the future.
Vella stressed that the authors of the new code have gone to great lengths to strike a balance between the wants of the development industry and those of the conservation community.
“We go further than any code in the state in terms of flexibility,” Vella said.
One area of compromise struck between the two camps was a rule that would allow certain recreation areas like soccer fields and golf courses to be included in environmentally sensitive open-space areas.
Don Chatfield, president of the conservation group Sonoran Institute and a member of Environmentally Sensitive Lands Public Advisory Committee, called the compromise “patently ridiculous.”
Chatfield, however, recognized the need for compromise.
“All of us were partners in the process and gave here and there; that’s what makes good public policy,” he said.