After two months of silence, the Arizona State Land Department reached out to the Town of Oro Valley expressing interest in resuming negotiations over an 885-acre parcel of State Trust land to the west of the town’s boundaries.
For about nine years, the town has been in talks with State Land to annex and eventually develop the property, which is split into two sections on either side of West Tangerine Road between North Thornydale Road and West Shannon Road. It’s bordered by Marana’s jurisdiction to the west, Oro Valley to the east and unincorporated Pima County to the north and south.
In late July, State Land’s Director of Strategic Projects Wesley Mehl wrote a letter to Mayor Joe Winfield informing him that their department decided to put the project on hold due to several staff vacancies, including the project manager that was assigned to this annexation.
State land said they wanted to focus their resources on “other priority work of the Department.”
The pause concerned some residents, leading them to believe that State Land may have secretly moved over to the Town of Marana to pursue development. Mehl’s recent letter, dated Sept. 23, dispels any speculation on the subject.
“We have not discussed and have no current plan to discuss the 885 Property with Marana, and still intend to pursue those annexation and rezoning discussions with the Town of Oro Valley,” Mehl wrote.
He said that because State Land’s pause on the project coincided with Marana’s 10-year general plan update, neighbors and community members “jumped to the conclusion that ASLD has engaged with Marana on the 885 Property.”
Marana officials have said they do not have an interest in annexing the property, and that it’s better suited for Oro Valley to do so.
While looking over the first land use proposal, created by State Land in partnership with local planning firm The WLB Group, Oro Valley council members expressed concerns over residential lot sizes, retail viability, transitions in land uses and the zoning banks.
They requested that State Land’s final proposal include more information on home density, land use transitions and buffer yards, wildlife preservation, drainage, parks and recreational amenities among other community concerns.
Comments from the town and neighborhood meetings were provided to State Land officials to help them develop their revised proposal. That new proposal is still forthcoming, and it could be a while longer before next steps are taken.
Mehl wrote in his letter that the State Land Department has an “acute staffing issue” and both project managers responsible for doing work in Southern Arizona left their jobs last June. As of Sept. 23, both those positions remain unfilled.
In April, economic consulting firm Applied Economics completed a fiscal impact analysis of the property. They predicted that if the town goes through with annexation and development, Oro Valley could potentially bring in nearly 1,700 new homes and 1 million square feet of commercial space.
The firm’s findings could change based on State Land’s final proposal.