The simple answer is “yes.” It is called a General Plan and it is required by State law, adopted by Town Council and submitted to voters for ratification. Our current General Plan was ratified by voters in November 2005. State law requires citizen ratification of the General Plan every 10 years.
At 5 p.m. this evening, the Oro Valley Town Council will consider (among other things) three major amendments to the General Plan. According to state law, any major amendments must be heard once a year before the end of the year in which it was filed. This year, two changes are being proposed by land owners and one (Energy Element) by the Town.
What is the General Plan?
The General Plan is a policy document. It establishes policy related to the growth and development of the Town, including but not limited to: land use, circulation, parks/open space, public safety and water. The General Plan includes the community vision, goals, policies and maps articulating the Town’s future intent. It provides guidance for Town decision-making related to zoning (residential, commercial or employment uses), future roadways, parks and utilities to support existing and future development. The document further guides community design (how the Town looks), environmental, cultural, and open space resource conservation. Under state law, zoning decisions must be consistent with the General Plan. For this reason, the plan is important as it is primarily implemented through the zoning code.
How and why is the General Plan amended?
General Plan amendments are evaluated for conformance with the adopted Vision, Goals and Policies of the General Plan and four specific criteria. The most important test for any amendment is the four criteria which require the applicant demonstrate that conditions in the community have changed, justifying the amendment, that the change is sustainable, that the changes reflect market demand, and that impacts associated with a proposed development have been mitigated.
The General Plan anticipates changes due to the dynamic nature of the growth of the community. Over time, factors such as land use, road location and infrastructure availability change which justify consideration of amendments to the plan. The Town Council makes a final determination whether the proposed amendments are justified and advisable based on the evaluation criteria discussed above. Amendments can be approved, denied or continued for further study.
The responsibility to represent the will of the electorate on a day-to-day and year-to-year basis remains with the Council. Given the significance of major plan amendments, an added requirement is that major amendments be adopted with a super-majority 2/3 vote of the Council.
(Editor’s Note: Joe Hornat is a member of the Oro Valley Town Council.)