On May 18, Oro Valley voters decide between Dr. Satish Hiremath and Mike Zinkin in the race for a four-year mayoral term. Candidate responses to questions from The Explorer are published here. Some were edited for length.
1. What do the terms "pro-business" and "business friendly" mean to you? Are you "business friendly" and how would you demonstrate this?
1. Being pro business or business friendly recognizes the importance of local sales taxes, the importance of a jobs-housing balance, which is highlighted in our General Plan, and the importance of expediting development approval especially in these tough economic times.
I am "business friendly" because I realize that time is money and for development to occur, applicants cannot afford to be bogged down in meetings or a process that does not add value. I would demonstrate this by streamlining the development process.
1. Oro Valley receives over 20 percent of its town revenues from sales and bed taxes. We need business and must improve the atmosphere for business in Oro Valley. We can do this without rampant changes to our codes and design standards.
As a four-year member of the Developmental Review Board, it was our job to work with applicants to assist them in their landscape, architecture, signage and development plans, and do so within the established codes and guidelines of Oro Valley. This was never a problem. Only on a very rare occasion an applicant had to return with a revised plan, but never did they give up the project as a result of our codes.
Currently, there is no avenue for business to directly address the council with their concerns. The establishment of a Business Developmental Commission, consisting of residents that are also current or past business owners, would resolve this problem.
2. Do you think the town needs to speed up the development review process? What do you think of the proposal to eliminate the Development Review Board?
2. Yes, but realize that speeding up a process must not result in compromising standards and I support both expediting the review of development applications while maintaining compliance with both our General Plan and our zoning code. The proposal before council includes reducing the number of development review meetings or curtailing the type of review. I favor both without lowering the compatibility, safety and aesthetic standards Oro Valley stands for.
2. Yes, the town needs to and can expedite the development process. Eliminating the DRB will not do this. The town's estimate of saving 11 to 14 weeks in the development process by eliminating the DRB is questionable and needs to be challenged. Items like master sign proposals, grading waivers and development plans can go directly to the council, as they now need council approval anyway. Items like custom homes, homes in established HOAs and repainting of businesses can be approved by staff if all other codes are complied with.
The town still needs volunteer, resident input into commercial architectural, landscape, model homes in subdivisions and color palettes. The DRB provides this input and does not slow up development since such elements require approval anyway. In my four years on DRB I never saw an appeal of a DRB decision on any of these items. All staff members do not live in Oro Valley and staff has never shown a desire to make these decisions. These decisions are best left up to the residents.
3. Do you think Oro Valley needs to broaden its tax base? If so, how? If not, why?
3. Yes. Quality of life means meeting the needs of the entire population. Our Coyote Run service for ADA certified citizens is in financial trouble, the restoration of our historic properties and resources is a must, also an integral part of quality of life. Our library is unique in several respects and to maintain the level of service is in jeopardy due to costs. This can be remedied by streamlining the development process and soliciting more business to come to Oro Valley, thereby increasing the tax base.
3. At this time there is no need to broaden or increase any taxes. We can balance the budget for the foreseeable future without additional taxes. It was The Explorer that reported that 10 years ago the cost of town government was $1,700 per resident. Now we spend $4,600 per resident, and the town has an additional 16,000 residents. Oro Valley government has to look at its spending habits. "Wants" need to be separated from "needs."
We need to look at our habits. Are we turning off computers before we go home? Do we have motion detectors in the rest rooms so lighting can be automatically turned off? Do we have setback thermostats in our facilities? Are we taking advantage of all the funding for solar and other sustainable energy?
There are a multitude of things the town can do prior to even considering a broader tax base.
4. Do you want to see Oro Valley grow? Why or why not?
4. Yes. We are committed to the annexation of Arroyo Grande state land ASAP. There are lands in that 9,100 acres that include wonderful tourist attractions, recreational opportunities, as well as new residential and commercial challenges, and we have to be creative in how these challenges are met. We cannot grow unless we deal with the sustainability requirements meeting water, transportation and environmental protection.
4. Of course I desire to see Oro Valley grow. We are on the verge of filling out our boundaries. There is only about 15 percent of the existing Oro Valley land to develop. Arroyo Grande is important to our future. It is necessary that Oro Valley decide how that land is to be utilized, not the state or county. We are waiting for the state to act on our proposal and General Plan amendment regarding Arroyo Grande.
Expanding south to Foothills Mall and the Omni is certainly within the realm of possibility. This would immediately increase our sales tax and bed tax base. There would be immediate obligations to our new residents. We would most likely need to establish a police sub-station and a maintenance yard for our new residents, but the new taxes from this expansion could offset our initial expenditures.