Aug. 11, 2004 - The proposed rezoning of a small parcel of Oracle Road frontage brought neighbors of the area to the Aug. 3 Oro Valley Planning and Zoning Commission meeting to protest one of the intended uses.
A 2.58-acre parcel on the northwest corner of Oracle Road and El Conquistador Way, owned by Kenneth and Anne Cooper, is now zoned R-6, which allows for professional offices and multi-family residential development, however, the owner and developer requested the property be rezoned to C-1, a commercial zone, to include a beauty salon and restaurant in addition to office space.
The project will entail building 27,967 square feet of commercial space on what is now "undisturbed desert," according to the town staff report. The land surrounding the parcel is either undeveloped or has homes and town houses on it.
The commission voted 5 to 1 to recommend the zoning change to the council with three additional conditions: that the restaurant operating hours be limited to 7 a.m. through 10 p.m., that the proposed west end parking lot be gated after 7 p.m. and that scrubbers be added to the ventilation hoods in the restaurant to help prevent food smells from reaching the surrounding residents.
But the recommendation came with objections from nearby residents living in the Valle del Oro housing development who said a restaurant about 12 yards from some homes in the development is "unacceptable."
Harry Kandetzke spoke on behalf of several audience members who ceded their time to him. He said the original zoning designation of C-N, or neighborhood commercial, is a lower intensity development than the proposed C-1 and that there is not enough space or proposed buffering to put a high-intensity development on the parcel.
"What we have is a very distinct incompatibility that I think is not being addressed," he said.
Several other residents echoed his concerns. Bill Adler, who does not live in the Valle del Oro development, also spoke on behalf of some residents, saying a restaurant just feet from some bedroom windows was not an appropriate land use. He said the commission should suggest a restriction on the type of restaurant that could be built, changing it to a coffee shop or snack shop, reducing the size of the building and amount of parking space needed and limiting the hours of operation to breakfast and lunch.
Many sitting in the full house of council chambers applauded the speakers as they made their case against the rezoning.
Profile Design Inc. of Tucson is designing the project and was represented by Carl Kilgor. The applicant addressed several of the issues raised at the meeting by saying many of the concerns of noise, smells, possible vandalism and traffic had been discussed and taken into consideration in the current plans.
However, it was pointed out the land would be developed in some fashion, regardless of a zoning change, and with the current R-6 designation, an apartment complex was a possibility, something resident Dan Luppo said was not in the best interest of the residents.
The proposed restaurant is intended as a "high-end" establishment, catering to business meetings, winter visitors and families. It was compared to the Metropolitan Grille at the meeting. The restaurant will include outdoor dining space, but will not allow outdoor entertainment or stage performances. No fast food or take-out will be permitted at the site.
The building is proposed to sit near Oracle Road, with parking on the east and west sides. A berm will be built on the eastern half of the property to shield residents from headlights and noise. Commission Chair-man Don Cox said throughout the planning process for this project, the only objections have been in regards to a restaurant on the site.
He said with the proposed restrictions placed on such a development, the development would be less intrusive on nearby residents. He called the site a current "eyesore," saying he felt the development would be "an overall improvement."
Commissioner Ken Kinared said the process of getting to this point with the project is "a clear illustration" of what planning and zoning has to do on a regular basis when a new development is proposed in town and that if the commission does not follow the general plan in regard to development and allow for projects to move forward regardless of a "not in my backyard" mentality, the town will not be able to support itself through sales taxes and will have to impose a property tax.
Commissioner Pete Bistany, who voted against the recommendation, said he thought the proposal was "much too ambitious a project for 2.5 acres."
Rezoning is just one of two major obstacles preventing the forward movement of the El Conquistador project. Completion of the project also relies heavily on obtaining a grading waiver from the town, as the proposed building will go where there is now a hill.
The highest part of the building, as proposed, will reach only a few feet higher than where the top of that hill currently stands. Almost 100 percent of the property will need to be graded, according to the developer, in some places more than 20 percent.