After months of neighborhood meetings and several modifications from the Oro Valley Town Council, a local landowner has received the green light to build 77 residential homes near North Oracle Road and West Pusch View Lane.
The area in question is about 75 acres of untouched desert foothills. It’s one of four separate parcels in the Town Center Planned Area Development, and sits within the Oracle Road Scenic Corridor Overlay District.
The parcel is north of the El Conquistador patio homes and west of the La Reserve residential subdivision. Both of those subdivisions were built in the 1980s.
The previous entitlement, set in 2012, allowed for 65 one- and two-story homes with a minimum allotment for 15,000-square-foot lots. It also required 75 percent of the land to be preserved as public open space.
In March, local planning firm The WLB Group represented the owner, Patrick Rooney, in a rezoning request put forth to the council. They wanted to build 82 units consisting of 6,000- and 7,200-square-foot lots, with 70 percent of the open space preserved.
Their request came after months of negotiations with the surrounding neighbors, who were concerned about impacts to their views of the Santa Catalina mountains and increased traffic along the bustling Oracle Road.
Rooney and Rick Morris, with home developer Richmond American, decided to keep all the homes single-story, and to run a traffic study to determine the impact of more residents in the area.
When they brought their proposal to the town council in early March, both Mayor Joe Winfield and Vice Mayor Melanie Barrett expressed concerns regarding traffic and noise on Oracle Road, the proximity between houses, grading and filling on the site’s steep hills, recreational amenities and the preservation of views and open space.
Councilmembers Rhonda Piña, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon felt that it was a balanced proposal from the beginning and wanted to approve it as it was. That split decision resulted in a continuation of the item, which made its way back to the dais May 15.
The WLB Group returned with a new proposal of 77 lots with four square footage options ranging from 6,000 to 7,500, and 72 percent of the parcel’s open space preserved.
Oro Valley town code dictates that cuts and fillsto the land cannot surpass six and eight feet, respectively. This proposal goes beyond that in certain places, and had to acquire a waiver from the town in order to do so.
“It is very rare, and it really is limited to properties where there is extreme terrain and that is really the only time that we generally enter into this discussion,” said Town Planning Manager Bayer Vella. “This property, particularly toward the eastern area by the wash, can’t be developed without a grading waiver.”
The homes are now planned to be 310 feet away from Oracle Road at the nearest point, compared to previous proposal’s 260 feet. 80 percent of the homes are now set back 7.5 feet from the curb, instead of the previous five feet.
They also moved their proposed recreational area within the development farther to the east where it would be less visible from Oracle Road.
“One of the tricky parts about this was balance,” said Rob Longaker with The WLB Group. “Balance between what the council would like to see, property owner, what they would like to see, neighbors, what they would like to see in a project.”
Before it was rezoned as low-density residential in 2012, the site was intended to be developed into Oro Valley’s town center, where residents and visitors could walk to shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Some residents at the council meeting recalled that idea.
“My next dream would be that the Town of Oro Valley would make good on its original promise and actually develop the property as a town center with walking paths and a small sampling of tucked away homes, biking and hiking trails,” Tracy Smith, a resident of the El Conquistador patio homes, told the council. “A showcase, a true town center, a place where we could be proud of, the hub of this great community.”
Other residents want to see the land preserved as open space, but at the meeting it was noted that the land has always been private property and the Oracle Road Scenic Corridor distinction only protects views from the street perspective, not from neighboring subdivisions.
“The scenic corridor regulations are all about arranging development in a manner that respects the views,” Vella said at the meeting. “It does not represent a requirement or a statement by the town that these areas in a scenic corridor are going to be open space.”
To partition the proposed homes from Oracle Road, the developer proposes a set of staggered walls ranging between six and eight feet in height. Longaker said this will improve the visual quality from the street.
They also plan to add a right-hand turn lane on Pusch View Lane, in order to mitigate the increase in traffic.
All seven members of council voted to approve the proposal. Winfield recalled attending the neighborhood meetings for this proposed development before he was sworn in as mayor.
“Is this project everything that I would hope that it would be? I would have to say ‘no,’” Winfield said. “But I believe that the applicant has made a genuine effort to address many of the concerns of the residents and concerns of this council.”