On January 16, 2013, an important question will come before the Oro Valley Town Council: Should we spend $2.1 million to “underground” utility lines for three projects being proposed by Tucson Electric Power?

When this item originally came before Council on December 5, we realized more public input was necessary. Decisions on expenditures of this size—even if they fall under current Town ordinances—warrant substantial input from our residents. 

To that end, we’ve planned a special Study Session on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers, 11000 N. La Cañada Drive. Project details will be discussed, and it is our hope that Oro Valley residents will take this opportunity to share their thoughts on this issue.

Mayor Satish Hiremath: The Town has established ordinances for our scenic corridors which state that all utilities should be buried underground. There are three TEP projects coming online which will cost the Town $2.1 million dollars to bury these lines. Before this Council allocates $2.1 million dollars, I would like the Council to hear our residents’ opinions. Please join us at the January 9 Council Study Session so that you may provide your input.

Councilmember Joe Hornat: While I would like to protect the views along Oracle, we do already have utility poles on the East side of Oracle. In fact, immediately after leaving the current northern boundary of Oro Valley, the same poles are already along the West side. Given these two items and that some day this will be annexed, I’m not sure it is worth the $2 million. I look forward to hearing from our citizens and their willingness to bear this cost via a franchise tax.

Vice Mayor Lou Waters: My experience of Oro Valley is largely the experience of the Catalina Mountains. Looking at them and daydreaming with power lines and poles obstructing the view is an insult to the environment. We have an unenforceable law against it.  It’s bad enough now, but there is more of this blight coming and we must find a way to stop it. 

Councilmember Bill Garner: I’m not in favor of above-ground power lines, especially along Oracle Road. They’ll interfere with our viewshed and take away from our status as a Scenic Corridor along the Catalinas. It’s important that the public be fully vetted on this process and that TEP provides visuals and true cost estimates for this project.

Councilmember Mike Zinkin: We take pride in our Town and how we respect the environment. We insist that development does not disturb our views. We are concerned about water and take steps to ensure its conservation. We also require that signage be the least intrusive as possible. Oro Valley is unique in that we care about our surroundings. Now TEP comes forth and tells us to either pony up $2.1 million, or they are going to ruin our viewshed. The State and ACC side with them. What are we to do? This is an important question which requires input from our citizens. Please come forward and guide us in this decision.

Councilmember Mary Snider: This will be a very big decision for Council, so it is critical that we receive input from our residents.

While Council Study Sessions don’t typically include a public comment portion, the January 9 session will be geared toward obtaining feedback from residents, as we prepare to discuss this item at the January 16 Council Meeting. The January 16 agenda also includes a public hearing, during which residents may provide feedback. We hope to see members of our community at both meetings.

If you are unable to attend these meetings, we invite you to submit your comments to us through Chris Cornelison, the Town’s constituent services coordinator, at ccornelison@orovalleyaz.gov. To learn more about the proposed TEP projects, please visit www.orovalleyaz.gov and click on the “Events” tab.

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