In a 4-3 vote, the Oro Valley Town Council rejected a proposed rezoning of the Kai-Capri area from commercial use to multi-family residential use during their council meeting on Jan. 6. 

Vice Mayor Melanie Barrett and council members Joyce Jones-Ivy, Josh Nicolson and Tim Bohen voted not to approve a Type-1 General Plan amendment to the Kai-Capri Special Area Policies that would change a 13.44 acre parcel near First Avenue and Tangerine Road from C-1 commercial use to R-6 multi-family residential use. 

The amendment would have also increased the number of permitted residential dwellings from 255 to 394 units within the existing parcel already designated for neighborhood/commercial/office use.

There are 38 businesses being sustained by a population of 8,759 town residents, living in 3,557 homes within a 1.5 mile radius of the intersection in question, according to a town staff presentation before the vote.

Proponents for the proposed amendment change argued rezoning was needed because there were not enough residents to support the current retail and restaurant establishments in the area—and even fewer to support future commercial development. 

Before the council decided, Barrett said she was unable to support the change because the council already revised zoning and approved several residential developments in the area within the past two years. 

“I’ve given a lot of thought and I think it’s in the best interest of Oro Valley for the property to be maintained as commercial property,” Barrett said. “A number of those developments are not completed and still have yet to be developed.”

Barrett also spoke about the council’s recent efforts to create the Primary Employer Incentive Program, an effort to build long-term financial stability for the town. The First Avenue and Tangerine Road intersection was an area the council targeted to participate in the endeavor.

“Just a few months ago, we passed a new zoning code that would expand the allowable uses on this property significantly and allow it to be used for primary employment. This was the town’s preferred strategy to the ‘Amazon effect,’” Barrett said. “To immediately go through and rezone those properties, which just had expanded uses made available to them, into high-density residential doesn’t allow them the time to see if they can make those uses work.”

Council Member Tim Bohen also said he couldn’t support the amendment because he doesn’t believe there is a population deficiency in the area. He also said the prior work on the plan should be respected and revisions should be well-considered before their work is changed.

“I wanted to acknowledge that for three years people worked on this plan and it was a very arduous process. We’re only three years into the 10 years of that General Plan,” Bohen said. “There are 25 goals and 77 policies and these were very carefully put together. The current application really doesn’t rise to the threshold of being necessary for me to see a change to the General Plan.”

Mayor Joe Winfield voted in favor of rezoning the Kai-Capri area. The mayor was a part of the development of the 2006 General Plan and the 2016 General Plan, and helped with public outreach for both. He said while having a plan is good, changes are sometimes necessary. 

“The General Plan is certainly something that’s important to me. It’s something I’ve been involved with and given my time, my energy,” Winfield said. “Plans are not static. Plans are dynamic. Things change.”

Winfield also said he was surprised there wasn’t more community involvement sooner in the process and he wished the public and other council members would have spoken up when the applicant brought the project before the council in April. 

“I think as a community we have some obligation to become engaged in this early on,” Winfield said. “There is considerable effort and time that goes into developing this by our staff.”

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