The Oro Valley Town Council has approved a water rate change for municipal customers.

The new rates do not impact base water rates for residential customers. Instead, increases to groundwater preservation fees are scheduled to take effect in October 2011.

Groundwater preservation fees for potable water would increase 20 cents per 1,000 gallons of potable water use, rising to 95 cents per 1,000 gallons.

Reclaimed water customers, mostly golf courses, would pay 10 cents more per 1,000 gallons of effluent use. The rate would increase to 50 cents per 1,000 gallons.

The changes would mean a 4.1 percent rate increase for residential customers, based on the water usage of the average Oro Valley household, about 8,000 gallons per month. Most residential customers would pay an additional $1.60 per month, according to a water utility analysis.

Changes also include a $5 increase to the service establishment fee, bringing the fee to $35 for residential customers.

Meter installation fees also are scheduled to increase. Currently, residential customers with 5/8ths-inch meters pay $247. The new cost for meter installation will be $296. New meter and service establishment fees go into effect Dec. 18.

Sign code debated

The consensus view of the Oro Valley Town Council after a review of proposed changes to the temporary sign code was that the proposal needs work.

A non-voting item on the Wednesday, Nov. 17, council agenda provided an update of the ongoing revision of the Oro Valley sign code.

Council members said the proposal lacked specificity in certain areas.

Councilman Barry Gillaspie noted that certain sections covering temporary signs at under-construction housing developments would allow for advertising signage until 180 days after the closure of the sales office, or all lots are sold.

“Why put it under temporary signs?” Gillaspie said. “It’s poorly worded, it’s basically ‘leave signs up as long as you want’.”

Gillaspie said many subdivisions have lots for sale for seven years and longer, pushing the definition of “temporary.”

Residential real estate signs also prompted discussion among council members. Under the proposal, such signs would be allowed to be larger by two square feet, including “under-hangers.”

The proposal also would limit the allowable height of residential for–sale signs to six feet.

Bob Semple, a real estate agent and member of the task force, told the council that the larger size had become the industry standard in recent years.

Council members questioned the changes, saying the larger sign size covered six square feet without the additional signs hanging underneath.

Garner pointed out the example shown in the proposal would have violated the proposed code because the number of hanging signs underneath increased the square footage beyond six feet.

A resident questioned the value of the larger signs in the public right of way.

“I think they’re expecting signs to deliver more than the sign industry actually says that they can,” Oro Valley resident Bill Adler said.

Adler said the town should encourage the real estate industry to use more and various kinds of media, rather than rely on for-sale signs.

He also said the sign code should be used to preserve scenic views and corridors that many roadways have been designed to showcase. Allowing more and larger temporary signage would negatively impact such scenic views, he said.

“In my judgment, community values trump special interest values,” Adler said.

Another resident suggested the council make no changes to the code to minimize the impact on townspeople.

“Residential neighborhoods belong to residents, not the real estate industry,” Oro Valley resident Don Bristow said.

Councilman Solomon said the placement of for-sale signs was actually an act of the resident who wants to sell a home, not the actions of a real estate agent.

The council commissioned a citizens task to force in March to review the sign code and present a comprehensive list of upgrades and changes for council approval.

The council plans to revisit the sign code issue and potentially make a decision in February.

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