Letters to Editor

Oro Valley Main Street?

Regarding Jan. 24 article “Oro Valley needs more dense housing…”: The town staff’s proposed Main Street Project was presented. It described the concept and the La Cañada location to build a community meeting place, entertainment venues (bars) and new retail businesses.

In my opinion, it was a thinly disguised plan to justify high density housing and apartment development.  The planned retail development would require increasing the local population density of that area from 5,800 to 13,000. This growth would be accomplished through building high density housing and apartments, new development that Oro Valley residents don’t need or want..

The development allegedly is needed to provide the customer density for retail businesses to be successful. Our town staff fails to see the change that is overcoming retail business. The historical brick and mortar stores are losing sales to the internet which is taking over the market. Let’s face it; there is nothing you can’t find on the internet in quantity at sale prices. Classical brick and mortar business are finding it impossible to compete and are struggling to redefine their business models. Many of the existing retail giants, like Wal-Mart and Target, are phasing into the internet to save their existing sales volume.

So, why should Oro Valley push for high density housing and apartments to prop up dwindling retail sales? The next question is who will be pay for the proposed Main Street project? From the article it sounds like Oro Valley will, or could it be another attempt to sell a Property Tax? 

Finally, this desired high density residential development and supporting entertainment venues (bars) will be occurring suspiciously close to the town’s community center and acres of excess golf property. If you connect the dots, the town could be setting the stage for rezoning golf courses to high density residential. Then they can sell the excess land at higher prices, and collect taxes and fees from their developer contributors on the rezoned high rise construction.

—Chet Oldakowski



Eliminate at large elections in Oro Valley 

In the event Oro Valley achieves the 50,000 mark in population by the 2020 Census (a reasonable bet), it will trigger a ‘cascade effect’ of demographic alerts nationally. Numerous databases will notify clients we have achieved that magical growth number.  

For the Oro Valley Town Council it’ll be time to “run with the big dogs.” The stern corollary to this observation is simply, “so, no more peeing like a puppy?” 

By that, I mean the council’s underfed, monetary alligator, a.k.a. the El Con Golf & Recreation Center, otherwise known as “what the heck did we get into?”

Aside from letting a few hundred golfing members swill down the lion’s budget-share over thousands of others, the latest iteration in this ongoing clown-car is [gasp!] …parking. Turns out the private owner of a dirt lot, adjacent to existing parking, has decided that lot is now off-limits, precipitating a daily scramble for a space.  

Here’s the cure for this, and it largely prevents a repeat of any “El Cons” in the future.  

The Oro Valley council is presently elected “at-large”, i.e. no separate council districts, so blocs of voters can conspire together and elect their slate of candidates. Numerous states have held “at-large” to be discriminatory and corrupt, passing constitutional amendments banning the practice. Every ban upheld in federal court.  

As Oro Valley grows towards 50,000, with its potential for future fiascos, we should demand the Legislature craft such a ban. (also why Tucson is such as mess, it’s “at-large” too)

—Bill Sellers



Dubious Planning

Regarding Jan. 31 op-ed “A resident’s take…”: Jim Greene’s article on Oro Valley’s Main Street study was a welcome counterpoint to the usual gleeful town chorus of “all business all the time.”  But given my 14 years of dealing with land development in Oro Valley, I can advise that Mr. Greene’s pleas to think about “the implications of the report and slow down” will no doubt fall on deaf ears with the current pro-development council.

My comments are based in actuality, not cynicism, as we’ve seen all of this before. They roll out the lofty presentations with lush pictorials and dialogue punctuated with phrases such as “central destination that you can walk around” and a “unique experience,” always promising more than they intend to deliver.

If these phrases sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve heard them before in arguments for Oro Valley Marketplace and the community center. I’m not against having a central destination or a unique shopping/entertainment experience, but neither of the aforementioned ventures has lived up to their promises. OV Marketplace, touted as a destination shopping mecca, turned into a strip mall with low-budget retailers and a bevy of empty storefronts. The community center is a 30-year old rundown money pit that is still not ADA compliant after three years of ownership.

In reality, as the town approaches build-out, the driving force behind the Main Street project is to provide job security to town staff for the next 20 years, taking some of them through to retirement.

What should also concern taxpayers is the choice of locations for this project. The LaCañada/Lambert location is already one of the busiest and most polluted intersections in Oro Valley with horrible pollution and high levels of particulate matters, according to a local science teacher who spoke during the Dec. 6 council meeting.

The second location at First and Oracle features six lanes of high speed traffic. Neither of these locations will ever have the charm of Old Town Scottsdale. Main Street will just be another project that fails to meet expectations.

—Robert Peters



Golf Math

Mayor Hiremath and councilmembers Hornat, Snider and Waters approved the purchase of the El Conquistador properties in December, 2014 over the protests of town residents who warned of golf losses.

Later, Mayor Hiremath boasted about negotiating this great deal with HSL owner of the EL Conquistador Resort. He claimed that Oro Valley was getting a “turnkey” Community Center for $1 million. In fact, town golf operations reported at the Troon operating level have lost $6.8 million through November of this fiscal year. The town stated in the NGF Study that $6 million in additional investment is needed for repairs and upgrades to the 30 year old former racket club. Looks to me like HSL got the better part of this deal.

But, the council may have a solution. The $50,000 NGF study has recommended reducing the Cañada and Conquistador courses from 36 holes to 27 holes, and converting the 9-hole Pusch Ridge course to a 12 hole par three.

What will approving these recommendations cost?

An estimated $4.6 million to reduce 36 to 27 holes and repair the courses; $3 million to rebuild the Pusch Ridge 9 hole to a par three. I estimate $4 million in losses during a two-year rebuilding at $2 million per year (less than current $2.5 million yearly losses) and $5.1 million in NGF study projected losses in the following five years. A total of $16.7 million estimated costs to Oro Valley over the next seven years if the NGF Study recommendations are approved.

For those residents interested in learning more about the town’s golf options Town Manager Jacobs and Troon President’ Rob DeMore will be briefing council in a 4 p.m. study session prior to this Wednesday’s 6 p.m. regular council session.

—Jack Stinnett

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