Residents, developer at odds over congestion, noise - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Residents, developer at odds over congestion, noise

Progress at Stone Canyon not without its detractors

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Posted: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:03 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

For residents outside the gates of Stone Canyon Club in Rancho Vistoso, waking to the sounds of idling construction vehicles, car radios and early morning cell-phone conversations has become routine.

“They’ve designated this as the construction entrance,” resident Bill Sugars said recently.

His house stands in Fairfield Vistoso, a subdivision near the entrance to Stone Canyon and surrounded by the fairways of the Golf Club at Vistoso.

Sugars and other residents have growing concerns about the noise and congestion caused by ongoing construction inside the opulent gates of Stone Canyon.

The country club community includes 116 completed homes, with many more under construction. Eventually the neighborhood could have as many as 340 homes. The club also has plans to build a new clubhouse in the coming months.

Residents who live near Stone Canyon said that six days a week vehicles start piling up outside the gates before 6 a.m. Some mornings more than 20 cars line up, their drivers waiting for Stone Canyon security guards to open the gate and let them onto their job sites.

The line of cars is one thing, but neighbors said many of the workers play their car stereos loudly or stand on sidewalks or in streets while talking on their cell phones, adding to the noise.

Rancho Vistoso has notoriously spotty cell-phone service, which causes the workers to leave their cars to search out pockets of reception.

Residents say they have complained to town officials about the noise and congestion and have taken their concerns directly to Stone Canyon developer Vistoso Partners.

A party of neighbors even met with Vistoso Partners President Richard Maes.

In that meeting, residents said they suggested to Maes a variety of options to alleviate the issue, such as opening the gate earlier to let in workers, using a golf course parking lot as a staging area for workers to congregate, or permitting construction vehicles to enter at the country club’s main gate further north on Rancho Vistoso Boulevard.

“They said ‘no’ to all of them without trial,” said Chuck Davis, a homeowner in Stone Village, a community across the street from Fairfield Vistoso.

Davis said Maes was concerned that letting construction teams into the country club earlier would disturb residents inside the gates.

“So the noise is good enough for us, but not for them,” Davis said. “They could easily move traffic 200 feet inside the gate.”

Maes said the company recognizes the inconvenience that ongoing construction presents for residents.

“There is a hang-up there, and that’s what people are complaining about,” Maes said.

Vistoso Partners recently changed the morning routine, including opening the main gates to some contractors.  

“All the heavy construction goes through the main gate,” Maes said.

The change was intended to ease the morning logjam along Vistoso Highlands Drive, but residents aren’t sure it’s has made much of a difference.

“There goes Granite Construction, they’re supposed to use the other entrance,” Sugars said last Tuesday morning as one of the company’s trucks rolled past his neighborhood.

As for letting contractors through the gates earlier, Maes said the country club already has looked into bringing vehicles in as early as 6 a.m.

“We’re trying to work with them,” Maes said of the affected neighbors. “There has to some give and take.”

Recently, Davis and other residents took their concerns to Oro Valley Councilman Al Kunisch, who helped broker a meeting between the parties. Fellow Councilmember Helen Dankwerth, along with town engineer Craig Civalier and Pat Klein, the town’s constituent services coordinator, sat in on the meeting.

“Our recommendation was that maybe they open the gate now at 6 a.m.,” Kunisch said.

Earlier this month, the council debated changes to town codes governing construction times. As currently written, codes allow work to begin as early as 6 a.m. or at sunrise, whichever comes later, and to continue through sunset.

The debate grew out of complaints from residents near Oro Valley Marketplace at Oracle and Tangerine roads. Neighbors there had complained to the town when construction crews began pouring concrete at 3 a.m.

Following a recognized protocol, the developer had contacted Oro Valley police to notify them of the extemporaneous working hours. Apparently, though, police never received a phone message the developers left.

The council now wants to change the process to take police out of the loop. Instead, town building officials would approve requests to work outside of normal hours.

A measure to notify neighbors to any requests also was discussed.

The council, however, could not resolve the issue, and voted to postpone the changes until the town legal staff comes up with a more preferable solution.

The current situation involving neighbors near Stone Canyon could add new complications to the proposed ordinance.

For example, the noise neighbors have complained about isn’t the result of construction work, nor do the complaints stem from work happening outside of recognized hours.

Additionally, no provision in town code addresses the morning queue to get into the country club.

“Vistoso Highlands is a public roadway and designed to accommodate construction,” Maes said.

In effect, what the town council may consider is a way to define and legislate neighborly conduct. Councilmember Dankwerth has unofficially offered a measure that could take steps to achieve that.

“I suggested that in the future the town consider requiring developers to build access roads that could later be closed off,” Dankwerth said.

Construction access roads into developments could alleviate the congestion and vehicle noise that residents like Davis, Sugars and their neighbors struggle with daily.

But that solution, too, presents logistical challenges. Some areas may not be conducive to construction entrances, and in other cases, houses crop up around ongoing projects. Such is the case with Stone Canyon.

“The roadway was built and the entrance gate was built before the people moved in,” Maes said. “They moved into an area that’s under construction.”

Despite the long-term legislative challenge, residents and Vistoso Partners may have come closer to a solution that suits both parties.

For now, Stone Canyon will start diverting more construction traffic to its front entrance and soon plans to let crews past the gates earlier.

Neighbors seemed measured in their optimism for a remedy.

“I think there will be action taken to solve the queuing problem,” Davis said, adding, “We’ll see, maybe nothing will happen.”

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