Jan. 11, 2006 - The Oro Valley Town Council decided not to accept a compromise with Stephen and Kay Fake concerning a horse trail that runs through Logan's Crossing and crosses the Fakes' property and will instead go to court to try to condemn the land and seize ownership.
At its council meeting Jan. 4, the town council voted 7-0 not to accept a compromise that would allow horse riders to use the trail near West Saddlehorn Drive to access the Cañada del Oro wash, but would restrict its use from all other forms of traffic, including pedestrians.
Fearing that this compromise would result in an ordinance so difficult to enforce that a future civil suit between Oro Valley and the Fakes would be inevitable, Town Attorney Melinda Garrahan recommended that the town first go to court to seize the land and argue to the court that doing so would be in the public good.
"Strict equestrian use brought up enforcement problems, and the police didn't like the idea of trying to enforce it," Garrahan told the council.
After the ruling, Stephen Fake said the council has been handling the matter irrationally all along and doesn't believe the town will win a court battle over use of the land.
"There is a trail that goes around our property, and it would cost them a nominal amount of money to re-route the part going through our land, probably less than the amount they offered us (for the land)," Fake said, an offer he estimates as about $15,000. "Instead of opening it up in a week or two, it will be tied up in court for a year or two. The town must have some ulterior motive."
When Fake purchased the property, he mistakenly believed that the trail was entirely owned by Pima County. Only later did he realize that he owned the land and might even be held liable if people were to injure themselves on his piece of the trail. The trail has been used for years by horse owners, hikers and bikers to access the Cañada del Oro Wash and trail system.
Fake said he is primarily concerned with the effect having a horse trail running through his land will have on the property's resale value, and insists he has done everything in his power to accommodate the horse riders who use the trail.
"If we ever wanted to sell the property, we would have to disclose that there are all the people going through, and we wouldn't be able to sell it for as much," Fake said. "We even increased our liability insurance so we could keep the trail open from March through September."
Fake added: "We're born and raised in Montana; we love horses."
Also at the council meeting, the council passed a resolution that would allow Boulder Canyon Properties to convert The Boulders at La Reserve Apartments, 1500 E. Pusch Wilderness Drive, into condominiums, a move that could force out renters unable or unwilling to purchase their apartment within the next two months.
If Boulder Canyon Properties takes immediate action, tenants of the complex's 240 units will be given 60 days to purchase their apartment and 120 days to vacate their apartment if their lease is up within that time. Other renters who choose not to purchase their apartment will have to leave when their leases expire.
"Eighty-five percent of these people will be displaced. The issue is that we've said we are committed to a variety of housing choices," said councilwoman Paula Abbot, the lone dissenter in the 6-1 vote. "We have very few apartments in Oro Valley. We need apartments and affordable housing. I don't see why this should be approved and displace residents just to make a profit."
Councilwoman Conny Culver said she believes the new condos would provide an affordable option to people who might otherwise be unable to purchase a home in Oro Valley.
"To purchase (a condominium) would cost less than buying a home, which (in Oro Valley) start around $300,000. This gives an option for young professionals who want to buy a home in the area," Culver said.
Representatives from Boulder Canyon properties noted at the meeting that an estimated 30 percent of the units will be sold to investors who will often allow the current tenant to stay in the unit rather than search for a new renter.
In other business, the town council raised the maximum height limit for new buildings in Oro Valley from 25 feet to 34 feet. Although many buildings, particularly local resorts, had previously exceeded the 24-foot limit, a special use permit from the town was always required before construction.
"We have a zoning code that doesn't fit into anything coming forward in the future. If we don't do this, everything will need a special use permit," said Scott Nelson, special project coordinator for Oro Valley.
Although council members Conny Culver and Barry Gillaspie expressed concern that the new ordinance could lead to the obstruction of many residents' scenic views of the Santa Catalina and Tortolita mountains, community development director Brent Sinclair reassured them that other measures were in place to control new construction.
"Any new development would have to go through development review planning" where such obstructions could be be halted from being built, Sinclair said.
The motion was passed by a 6-1 vote, with Abbot dissenting.
The council unanimously approved construction of an 81-lot subdivision at the end of Pusch Ridge WIlderness Drive within the La Reserve development.
Also during meeting, the town council unanimously elected councilman Terry Parish to replace Gillaspie as Vice Mayor.
Greg Holt covers Oro Valley and the Amphitheater School District. He can be reached at 797-4384 ext. 116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.