At the Oro Valley Town Council meeting on Jan. 18, residents continued to express concern regarding the development of a luxury apartment complex near Tangerine Road and Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, even after it was announced the applicant had withdrawn the proposal.
Residents have been critical of the proposed complex dating back to last October, when the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-1 to approve the development plans for the complex on parcel that was originally slated for commercial development.
Since that time, the Town Council has heard much criticism regarding the consideration to amend the Rancho Vistoso Planned Area Development from a commercial zone to allow the construction of the multi-family apartment complex.
During the call to the public, citizens highlighted a number of potential problems with the amendment, including increased traffic congestion, crime, and obstruction of views.
Oro Valley resident Marvin Zuravsky called the amendment a “nuisance”.
“When I bought my house, there were no apartments in the area, and that was a favorable reason for buying there,” he said.
There has been a growing concern with the apartment complex further congesting an area on Tangerine that already experiences high-traffic volume. Oro Valley resident John Musolf cited a study by two traffic engineers regarding the issue of traffic, should development take place.
“Whether the parcel 7-I is commercially developed or in the future changed to some other designation, a traffic problem will exist,” he said.
Musolf plans to send the study to the Town engineer.
Since it was not an agenda item, Town Council was fairly quiet on the issue. However, Councilman Steve Solomon took a moment to address the audience.
“Every property owner has equal protection under the law and due process,” he said. “If a property owner wants to request a rezoning, no matter how good or bad it is, the Town has to accept that application and process it. This council has never formally considered this rezoning, and never spoken whether we supported it or did not support it.”
Solomon also noted that the property has been zoned for commercial use since 1987, allowing 34-foot tall buildings, which would have obstructed views more drastically than the apartment complex, which was proposed at 30 feet in height.
David Williams, Oro Valley Planning Division Manager, said the developer could proceed with commercial property development, if desired.
“The developer has zoning for commercial, retail, and offices,” he said. “They could move ahead to develop in that matter without any approval needed from the Town. We do not know what the property owner’s next step will be at this time.”
In other business, the council voted 5-1 to approve an amendment to postpone the collection timeframe for impact fees from the beginning of a development period until the end of development.
Impact fees are paid by builders to help offset the costs resulting from a new business or residential lot, and generally relate to transportation issues or parks and recreation.
Paul Keesler, interim manager of Development of Infrastructure Services, said the postponement would be more business-friendly, and could potentially encourage new businesses to emerge.
“Developers are paying these fees far in advance of when the actual impact is realized by the town,” he said. “Through the construction, it is not a large impact to the Town, it’s when they open for business that they generate that impact. There is no fiscal impact to the Town as long as the fees are paid before they are needed.”
Councilman Barry Gillaspie voted against the amendment, expressing worry that a delay in collection timing could result in half-finished projects if a builder were to go bankrupt or transfer ownership.
Keesler explained a house or business could not be occupied if the impact fees have not been paid. An unoccupied development would thereby negate the need for an impact fee altogether since the surrounding areas would not be affected.
On the topic of the proposed subdivision Rancho De Plata, the council voted 6-0 in favor of rezoning the property from an R1-144 to an R1-7. The subdivision, to be located near La Cholla and Tangerine, will consist of a 50-lot single-family residential neighborhood on 19.45 acres.
Vice Mayor Mary Snider demonstrated concern about traffic issues with the new development, particularly in regards to children attending the nearby Wilson Elementary School.
Matt Michels, of Development Infrastructure Services, explained to the council a 30-foot buffer has been implemented to offer a bike and pedestrian walkway to connect with the school, eliminating much of the need to drive out of the neighborhood.