Grass at the park

The future of Naranja Park may rest in the hands of Oro Valley’s voting population later this year after town council expressed an interest in hearing resident input regarding potential construction plans and funding mechanisms before deciding whether or not the $17 million dollar plan should be placed on the November ballot. 

The unanimously decided course of action during the April 5 regular session, the community will have a chance to weigh in next Wednesday, April 19 at the council’s next meeting. Up for discussion is the possibility of issuing general obligation bonds to be paid off over a 20-year period through a secondary property tax. The public will have the final say in the matter, though placing the item on the ballot is left to the council.

The 213-acre site, located at 810 W. Naranja Drive, was first acquired by the town in 2000, and the idea behind the purchase to build a park site “consisting of a wide range of amenities to appeal to all ages and user groups,” according to town documents. After a master planning process Oro Valley residents voted against a $48.6 million bonding plan in 2008. The town has since developed the site on a pay-as-you-go basis as funds become available. 

The park currently hosts a fixed and walking archery range, walking trails, two dog parks, a pair of lit sports fields, restrooms and associated infrastructure. Separate from the potential bond package, two more multi-sport fields are planned for completion at the end of the year. Within the newly proposed deal, the town would develop three additional fields, a baseball/softball complex, batting cages, additional restrooms, expanded parking and more.

Considered a significant long-term investment, Oro Valley Finance Director Stacey Lemos said the town’s pay-as-you-go style of development would not be feasible, and that the creation of a secondary property tax as a dedicated revenue source would provide improved economic stability in case of potential financial downturn. Lemos added that the tax would sunset at the end of repayment, and any reinstatement would require additional public approval. The estimated annual principal and interest payments are approximately $1.4 million per year, at a rate of $0.22 for every $100 of assessed value.

If the project were to be completed, parks and recreation director Kristy Diaz-Trahan told council that operations estimates have been developed. The acquisition of $230,000 in equipment would originate from the General Fund, as would an estimated $200,000 operating deficit. 

Though the public was not given an opportunity to weigh in on the matter last week, the council will hear the community’s opinion next Wednesday, April 19 during the next council session, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at council chambers, 11000 N. La Cañada Drive.

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