The Oro Valley Town Council postponed on Wednesday a decision on the proposed environmentally sensitive land ordinance that has been under discussion since 1996.

The council decided to discuss the item again at its Feb. 16 meeting. Members Bill Garner, Barry Gillaspie and Steve Solomon voted against the delay.

Solomon told the council he would have preferred an additional study session on the ordinance where stakeholders in the community could participate to further refine the proposed set of rules.

The ordinance would put in one place all the various requirements for development in the town while seeking to preserve natural and cultural resources.

The ordinance is modeled after Pima County’s comprehensive Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

Members of the development community expressed some skepticism about the local proposal.

“This is a game changer,” said David Godlewski from the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association.

He noted that residential building in Oro Valley has all but stopped in recent years, making now a less opportune time to adopt a raft of new land-use requirements.

Don Chatfield, a member of the nonprofit environmental group the Sonoran Institute and a former Oro Valley zoning official, said the development community made similar arguments when the economy was better in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which was when the plan was first proposed.

“This is the time,” Chatfield said.

Richard Maes, who developed Rancho Vistoso, told the council he applied the proposed requirements to some of his existing developments in the town and found the rules would have prohibited much of the growth.

He said the proposed ordinance would require that as much as 66 percent of all of Rancho Vistoso be left as open space.

“Stone Canyon would be gone,” Maes said. “I don’t think it’s financially viable for any developer to start out by giving up the majority of his property before starting a project.”

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