OV Council starts general-plan process
By Lourdes Medrano
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 03.13.2008
The Oro Valley Town Council last week voted 6-1 to initiate a general plan amendment process to accommodate a proposed devel-opment on nearby state trust land.
The move paves the way for the town’s potential annexation of the planned 14-square-mile Arroyo Grande, which would include homes, businesses and possibly even a resort north of Oro Valley, just west of North Oracle Road and south of the Pinal County border.
Councilwoman Paula Abbott was the lone dissenter. She said the action was premature and questioned her colleagues’ commitment to protecting environmentally sensitive areas.
"We haven’t had a very good track record," she said.
Among the examples she cited was a previous lack of financial support for a town ordinance that would cover environmentally sensitive lands.
The council later that night approved using $175,000 from the town’s contingency fund to develop such an ordinance.
Abbott made it clear she isn’t against the town’s planned annexation of the state land. But she urged her colleagues to put in place safeguards that would guarantee land conservation.
"We just have to make sure that we’re going to be good stewards of the land," she said.
Some of Abbott’s colleagues took issue with some of her remarks.
Councilman Terry Parish rejected the idea that Oro Valley is insensitive to the environment. He and other council members emphasized that the amendment process would allow the town some control over a development plan that the Arizona State Land Department has put forth.
"We have the opportunity to put our stamp on this," Councilman Barry Gillaspie said to a roomful of citizens.
Oro Valley’s existing general plan already covers the area now known as Arroyo Grande.
Sarah More, the town’s planning and zoning director, said a general plan amendment would allow new land uses, including a mixed-use village center and a resort.
More told the council that town employees were preparing to address community concerns about Arroyo Grande.
The proposed 15,900-home development would make way for about 38,000 residents next to unincorporated Catalina, where about 8,900 people live and opposition is strong.
In previous public meetings where State Land Department representatives have outlined the scope of its 9,100-acre development, residents of Oro Valley and Catalina have aired concerns about the potential impact on water, wildlife corridors and infrastructure.
Officials from Pima County, which has participated in Arroyo Grande talks, have similar concerns about the plan.
County Supervisor Ann Day recently voiced her dissatisfaction at a Catalina community meeting with the county’s exclusion from a pre-annexation development agreement that the state and Oro Valley are poised to craft together.
Day, like Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, is concerned about the more than 6,100 acres the state’s preliminary plan designates as open space.
In a Jan. 29 letter to Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis, Huckelberry spelled out his concerns as he pointed to a pre-annexation development agreement between the State Land Department and Mammoth in Pinal County.
Huckelberry noted the 2007 agreement clearly benefits the state more than Mammoth.
"The agreement repeatedly states what the town ‘shall’ do without including assurances on what the State Land Department or future private owners of the property ‘shall’ do," Huckelberry wrote.
Oro Valley officials have said pre-annexation agreements typically involve the town and the property owner — in this case the state. But they say the town will continue to value the county’s involvement in addressing unresolved issues.
More, the planning and zoning director, said negotiations with the State Land Department on the agreement have yet to begin. Once the parties enter into negotiations, a pre-annexation development agreement spelling out the entities’ obligations could be ready in five to eight months, she said.
Before the Town Council votes on the agreement, the public would have a chance to review it at a Planning and Zoning Commission hearing.
Once the town completes the process, it would be up to the State Selection Board — the governor, the state attorney general and the state treasurer — to give annexation approval to Oro Valley.
? Contact reporter Lourdes Medrano at 618-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.