The Town of Oro Valley presented updates and clarifications to the Westward Look Resort development applications and conceptual plans to local residents during a Planning and Zoning meeting and public hearing on Jan. 5, as annexation of the 75-acre property moved forward.
Updates to the development application include reducing the originally proposed height of structures built near residences to surrounding the property, adding buffer yards and tree canopies to ensure existing residents privacy, and a commitment to rezoning a 23-acre-parcel west of the resort as open space.
If Oro Valley is successful with the proposed annexation, the town stands to make $916,000 annually off the resort’s bed tax and other fees, with an additional $61,000 to $562,000 annually depending on which proposed commercial development conceptual plan is chosen.
Michael Spaeth, the town’s principal planner and project manager for this endeavor, said annexing the resort is labeled as a “highest priority” for the town to build on goals expressed in the Your Voice/ Our Future General Plan passed by voters in 2016. Last year, the town approached Westward Look to consider a mutually beneficial annexation, which the resort requested several general plan amendments to promote future development on the property.
“Property owners have the right to request a general plan land-use change to their private property, known as a general plan amendment,” Spaeth said. “The general plan acknowledges these changes will happen and specifically states that changes will occur during the life of the plan, with an intensive public outreach process.”
The principal planner stressed that amendments to the general plan should not significantly alter land-use patterns without adequate buffers, may not impact existing uses with increased infrastructure without developmental growth improvements and amendments must not impact public services in the area. The current proposed amendments stay within these boundaries, Spaeth said.
He also clarified what specific changes would be made to the general plan, should the town council approve the proposed annexation in the upcoming months. The applications in consideration are broken into three items:
Item A proposes changing translational zoning of the property from Pima County CR-1 residential zoning to Oro Valley’s closest corresponding zoning code, R-136. The rezoning is required by state law following annexation.
Item B is a Type II General Plan Amendment to change the land-use designation of two parcels along Ina Road from low-density residential to neighborhood/commercial/office, which would enable the next item.
Item C would change the translational zoning from R-136 to Planned Area Development (or PAD) for the entire property. A PAD is a zoning option that allows greater flexibility in land-use and development than standard municipal zones. Spaeth said the amendment would fix a number of zoning discrepancies while applying proper zoning to the resort and open space areas.
“The proposal fixes existing zoning discrepancies on the property, specifically by applying proper zoning to 100% of the open space area west of Westward Look Drive,” Spaeth said. “This area is currently zoned under the existing Pima County CR-1 zoning for one home per 36,000 square feet, which is in conflict with the private deed restriction in the area. So, zoning this area as open space will add another layer of protection for neighbors.”
Spaeth said designating the 23-acre parcel west of the resort as open space was the town’s best option to protect the area from future development since they are unable to legally enforce the private deed restrictions between neighbors and Westward Look.
The proposed conceptual plans for development of the two parcels along Ina Road, dubbed Gateway West and Gateway East have also reduced their proposed 40-foot maximum building height to 34 feet (three stories) within 85 feet of the current residential areas, while still allowing up to four stories to be constructed closer to Ina Road, according to Spaeth.
The Planning Center, a local land planning and design firm, is behind the conceptual development plans for annexation and represents Westward Look. CEO Linda Morales said while several concepts are being presented, the resort has not chosen a developer at this time. Should annexation fail, the resort does not intend to pursue the conceptual plans with Pima County, Morales said.
Taking into account residents’ criticism of potential apartment complexes coming to their community, Morales and Westward Look have agreed that none of the concepts can have no more than 25% of the potential development’s acreage dedicated to residential use, according to the CEO.
“What that means is we would have to let at least a significant portion of this go to something other than residential,” Morales said. “All of these (concepts) would need to have a commercial component or office or non-residential component. That’s where boutique retail comes in.”
Morales said the concepts call for a retail space comparable to Broadway Village at Country Club Road and Broadway Boulevard to be built on the Gateway West parcel that would incorporate a wash as a 40-foot natural barrier from the nearest homes.
In the Gateway East parcel, all concepts incorporate 20 feet of tree canopy to help protect the privacy of current residents while the resort considers lowering the maximum height requirements from three stories to two stories in the area, according to Morales.
During the public hearing, residents praised the town’s outreach efforts, teetering in favor of annexation and the proposed concepts while still having concerns—particularly with building height in the Gateway East parcel.
Resident John Rowley said his biggest concern was privacy since his property would be butting against the proposed tree canopy area. He said he would like to see the maximum building height set at one story in the development area.
“Any kind of two-story building along the east side is going to be able to look into the six houses along that side. Can you at least make them one story because you’re going to have a six-foot fence or wall?” Rowley said. “You can see how much more a building with a window is retreating over that six-foot wall. There’s no privacy.”
The town is expected to hold a second Planning and Zoning public hearing on the potential annexation in February, but a date has not been set as of the Explorer’s deadline.