The long election campaign for town council, begun in earnest in early 2007 when Salette Latas announced she would run for office, ran its course in the spring with the election of Latas and fellow newcomer Bill Garner.

The pair joined Councilman Barry Gillaspie, who prevailed over fellow Councilman Terry Parish to capture the third open seat.

Former Councilwoman Helen Dankwerth also was unseated in the contentious race.

The year also brought the addition of a new shopping center, with the opening of the Oro Valley Marketplace.

The town also said goodbye to longtime residents the Leiber Family, former owners of the historic Steam Pump Ranch.

The town purchased the 19th Century homestead from the Leiber’s in 2007. The family vacated the property in mid-2008, making way for a planned extensive restoration project.

What follows is a wrap up of some of the biggest stories of 2008. 

Town looks to expand

Although not a done deal, Oro Valley made strides throughout 2008 in its effort to annex Arroyo Grande.

The town and Arizona State Land Department agreed to significant changes to tentative land-use maps for the 14-square-mile tract north of the town.

The changes included maintaining an unbroken swath of desert open space along the area’s southern border. The four-mile-long strip would serve as a wildlife corridor connecting the Tortolita Mountains in the west with Catalina State Park and the Santa Catalina Mountains to the east.

A Pima County bid to purchase the wildlife corridor at a reduced price — some 6,000 acres in all — remains undetermined.

The town and state plan to hash out the final negotiations for the complete annexation in early 2009.

Once completed, the annexation would increase the town’s size by 40 percent.

Park bonds fail

After nearly 10 years of planning and millions spent on land purchases and designs, citizens voted down the Naranja Park bond question in November.

In all, 57 percent of voters said no to the plan that would have allowed the town to borrow up to $48 million to build the 213-acre park, replete with facilities for tennis, basketball, volleyball, softball and baseball.

The plan also included a skate park and dog run.

In the end, the need for secondary property tax to pay the debt accrued during construction of the park proved too much for many in the town.

The tax would have been the first of its kind to be imposed locally in Oro Valley. Town officials have made no decisions on what to do with the sizeable parcel in the heart of town.

A tragic loss

A tragedy claimed one of Oro Valley’s residents in 2008.

On Aug. 12, Police found Lisa M. Berrie, a 25-year-old mother of two, strangled to death in her Oro Valley apartment.

Berrie had recently moved to the town from Tucson with her live-in boyfriend Paul M. Beam, 35.

Oro Valley Police arrested Beam on a charge of first-degree murder in connection with Berrie’s death.

Police reports noted that Berrie’s children — a 2-year-old daughter she had with Beam and 4-year-old son from a previous relationship — both were home at the time she was killed.

Berrie worked at Starbucks coffee shop in Bashas’ at Dove Mountain.

Police shooting

An Oro Valley Police officer shot and killed a suspected drug dealer in a Tucson Wal-Mart parking lot last September.

Santhiel Bustamante — a 20-year old Mexican immigrant — became a suspect in a drug investigation after a student at Canyon Del Oro High School told police that Bustamante had sold narcotics to students at the school.

Oro Valley police tracked Bustamante and passenger to the shopping center parking lot at First Avenue and Wetmore Road where the pair planned to make a drug deal.

When police confronted Bustamante, he attempted to flee in his car. As he fled, he rammed a police car with his.

Fearing for their safety and that of bystanders, an Oro Valley officer opened fire on the escaping Bustamante who then crashed his car into a nearby store before he died from gunshot wounds.

Bustamante’s passenger was not injured in the encounter.

A Pima County Attorney’s Office report exonerated the officers, determining that they had acted appropriately.

Marketplace opens

The much-debated, much-maligned Oro Valley Marketplace began opening stores in late 2008.

By a public vote, developers of the 850,000-square-foot shopping center at Oracle and Tangerine roads will receive a 45-percent rebate of the local sales taxes collected at the retail center.

The economic incentive deal was the object of much scorn in the community throughout the nearly 2-year long construction project, fueled in large part by the announcement that a Wal-Mart Supercenter would anchor the massive shopping center.

The controversy heated up again in July, when Town Manager David Andrews sent a fiery letter to Marketplace developers Vestar Development Company accusing the Phoenix-based builder of shoddy engineering practices and of flouting town building codes.

Andrews also noted that construction crews at the center caused nearly $500,000 damage to a town reservoir located at the site, broke a water line running through the area, conducted work outside of allowed construction hours and drew numerous residents’ complaints as result of dust.

Despite the setbacks and controversies, stores began opening at Oro Valley Marketplace in October.

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