The Oro Valley Town Council approved annexing the Westward Look Resort as well as amended zoning codes to make way for future development on the property along Ina Road in a series of 4-1 votes during an April 21 council meeting.
Councilmember Tim Bohen voted against the majority of agenda items relating to the annexation, while councilmembers Steve Solomon and Josh Nicholson were absent from Wednesday’s meeting.
This is the town’s third attempt to annex the resort and its 75 acres of surrounding property since Oro Valley incorporated in 1974. Oro Valley will officially take control of the area on May 21 and should start seeing local sales tax revenue from the resort by June or July, according to Town Manager Mary Jacobs.
“The Town of Oro Valley is really a patchwork of annexations, 48 of them in fact, in our almost 50-year history,” Jacobs said at Wednesday’s meeting. “This particular property [Westward Look] is simply a continuation of the manner in which the town has grown over time.”
Just by annexing the resort, Oro Valley expects to receive $755,000 in additional revenue during the first year of incorporating the property. Those revenues are estimated to increase to $916,000 over the next decade, according to a December 2020 economic impact report compiled by consulting firm Applied Economics.
The town could pocket an additional $61,000 to $562,000 depending on which of the three potential economic development plans they choose for 18 acres of property along Ina Road which surrounds the resort’s entrance. The property is split into two parcels—Gateway West which has 4.84 acres and Gateway East with the remaining 13.15 acres—and was rezoned for commercial and residential development during Wednesday’s meeting.
After council members approved fixing zoning discrepancies and rezoned the 75 acres as Planned Area Development (PAD), The Planning Center owner and CEO Linda Morales presented three updated development plans for both Gateway West and Gateway East to the council. The CEO said she was confident her team had addressed the various concerns nearby residents have had since the plans were first presented last year.
“All six of these common concepts divided between east and west would be designed with the character quality and uses that would really enhance the resort,” Morales said. “We don’t have a developer in place. We need to have some flexibility but we wanted to put some concepts down on paper and have some options.”
The 4.84-acre Gateway West parcel has three potential developmental concepts. Concept A focuses on boutique, rental and restaurant uses and would incorporate approximately 30,000 square feet of gross floor area. Concept B plans to add 38 residential villas, with a mix of one and two bedroom units. Concept C incorporates an office plaza with retail with over 35,000 square feet of gross floor space for the entire project. All the concepts presented for Gateway West are expected to be two stories at no more than 28 feet tall, a request of neighborhood residents.
The remaining 13 acres dubbed Gateway East also has three potential development plans. Concept A would feature a luxury apartment complex consisting of 184 one- to three-bedroom units with potential commercial space. Concept B is a mixed-use commercial center with restaurant, office and casita uses and would cover 76,000 square feet of gross floor area. Concept C would bring 250 luxury apartment units and or hotel units at an estimated 400,000 square feet. All three of these concepts would be a mix of two-story and three-story buildings topping out at 28 feet and 40 feet, respectively.
“I just want to reiterate that design is of the utmost importance here. This is our entry into the resort and there has been a significant investment in remodeling the resort to bring us back to that four-star experience,” Morales said. “There is nothing we would like less than to diminish that experience as people are coming off of Ina Road and coming up Westward Look Drive.”
Oro Valley Planning Manager Bayer Vella said once the annexation goes into effect in May, the resort will have 10 years to submit final site plans which must conform to the agreed-upon development plans presented during Wednesday’s meeting. Westward Look is also required to submit an architectural plan for all buildings proposed on the site and all future plans will need town council approval before construction can begin, according to the planning manager.
“I want to assure everyone that it’s not going to happen quickly. Once they [Westward Look] do submit, in terms of the level of review and intensity of the review...it's going to take roughly a year to a year and a half to complete,” Vella said before Wednesday’s vote. “They [Westward Look] are very unsure in terms of when they will actually submit. So, there will be lead time for neighbors to get involved and to be aware.”
Before the final vote, Mayor Joe Winfield acknowledged while annexing the property and developing around the resort’s entrance is expected to rake in significant revenue for the town, not everyone would be pleased by the action.
“A process like this, not everybody gets what they want. The applicant didn’t get everything that they wanted and the neighbors didn’t get everything they wanted,” Winfield said. “We [Oro Valley] would like what’s going to generate the most income for the town so we can provide services and programs for our residents. But that is yet to be determined.”
Bob Hagan, de facto spokesperson for the Westward Look Heights neighborhood, said he felt “things went well for his neighbors” considering the majority of their concerns were addressed by Morales and town council during Wednesday’s meeting. While Hagan and his neighbors still wish they could do more to lower certain building heights, he said he believes their involvement made a difference in the area’s future development.
“I think it would be fair to say I, as well as my neighbors, will stay just as involved as much as we can going forward. We will certainly participate in any meetings and do what we can do,” Hagan said. “I think it’s fair to let you know I was pleased with the way the meeting went last night. ”