Plans for locating cultural and recreational facilities at Oro Valley's 212-acre Naranja Town Site were approved unanimously by the Naranja Town Site Executive Committee Sept. 10, but it was an entirely different matter as far as putting town buildings on the site.
While approving a master plan for locating recreational and cultural activities in the proposed park on the north side of Naranja Drive, about one-half mile east of La Canada Drive, the committee eliminated one of two proposals for putting town buildings on 12 to 15 acres of the site, refused to support an alternative plan and recommended the Town Council look elsewhere for commercial and industrial property to build the buildings it wants.
The town wants to build a 11,000 square-foot, two-story community center on 2.3 acres to house its Public Works Department and Water Utility administrative staffs; operations and maintenance quarters in three two-story buildings totaling 38,000 square feet on 7.8 acres; and a Police Department training center in a 20,000 square-foot building on three acres.
Dick Eggerding, chairman of a task force that has been shepherding a master plan for the park through numerous citizen participation meetings and public hearings over the past year, said the task force has fulfilled its responsibility by bringing to the executive committee proposals representing the full spectrum of citizen views and attitudes.
That citizen participation process has revealed widespread support for the community center, performing arts center, amphitheater, trails, athletic fields, pools and tennis courts proposed for the site, but just as vehement opposition to the town's desire for public buildings on the site.
Eggerding's task force was directed to recommend either grouping the buildings in one area or spreading them out.
The panel did so, choosing a grouping in one area, only because it was ordered by the Town Council to do so, but let the council know that neither the public at large nor the panel wanted any town buildings at Naranja.
Over the past several months, Eggerding said, "the process has degenerated into a mean spirited pitting of people against people. And I don't want to go through that hell again.
"Where this issue really lies is at the feet of the council," with the codicil that the council make a serious effort to look at all options to clear the air, Eggerding said.
"Let's find out what options are available, then go to the public with them," he said.
Before its vote, Eggerding told the executive committee of concerns he's heard expressed regarding dispersing town buildings in different areas of the park and the potential that once such a thing began, the park would be overwhelmed.
References were made to the need to locate town buildings on the Naranja site because of town promises to residents in the Calle Concordia area to move its public works vehicles and trailer off its present site.
Don Chatfield, executive committee chairman, noted that the town has also promised to look out for residents in the Copper Creek, Monterro Hills and Monte del Oro subdivisions.
Chatfield wondered whether, if the average person came to the town seeking to install a pistol range, the town wouldn't suggest doing so on an industrial site, rather than on park land. Applying that to the town, Chatfield said the town's request for buildings on the Naranja Town Site should be treated like any other business's request.
Chatfield, fellow executive committee member John Wickham and members of the audience referred to site "contamination" that would result from the placement of public buildings and related equipment such as fueling pumps, dump trucks and back hoes in the park.
Committee member Bonnie Haymore also opposed town buildings at Naranja. The town should look for land elsewhere because its equipment is too big and too unsightly to be located at Naranja, she said.
Executive Committee Vice Chair Lyra Done said in early discussions she might be willing to support campus-type buildings in the park, but only if the "junk" associated with those buildings was eliminated.
Done said she saw the vehicles as the biggest problem in terms of putting public buildings in the park, not the buildings themselves. Committee member Kit Donley agreed.
Nearly a dozen people spoke before the executive committee voted. Nearly all were opposed to placing town buildings on the park site.
One of the speakers, Christian Wulff, said the resultant "contamination" would impact all of Oro Valley, not just people near the park, and that the town's 11th hour request to have the buildings placed in the park "doesn't allow time for competitive evaluation” as far as examining alternatives.
Bob Bischof, another speaker, said it made no sense for the town to move its public works operations off residential property on Calle Concordia to residential property at the park and warned of the traffic problems that would result from town vehicles on Naranja.
Bischof also warned that any insistence by the town not to look at alternative industrial or commercial sites could lead to recall efforts and opposition that would drag on any effort by the town to sell bonds to finance the buildings.
Town Councilmember Bart Rochman praised both the task force and the executive committee for doing the job they were asked to do, but said some residents have a misconception about where the town is headed from here.
Even if the task force and executive committee had recommended placing town buildings at Naranja, it would have been incumbent on the town to look at alternative sites, Rochman said.
Rochman agreed some of the fuss over the proposal to put town buildings on the Naranja site could have been avoided had the town done a better job early on of informing residents that the park site was going to be just one of several sites that would be considered.
The vote by the executive committee was likely its last action unless members are called on to review alternative sites for town buildings. The Town Council isn't expected to take any action in response to the committee's vote until mid-October or November.