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PRESERVING NATURAL BEAUTY

RAINBOW GOLD GROWTH ? ORO VALLEY AT THE TURNING POINT, SAVING THE SANTA CATALINA RANGE AND ORO VALLEY FROM ITSELF…

The original Rancho Vistoso was a large Adobe ranch house located where today Walmart parking lot at Oro Valley's Marketplace Plaza.

The Canon del Oro Valley is the gold at the end of the rainbow. The original Rancho Vistoso was a large Adobe ranch house located where the Walmart parking lot at Oro Valley’s Marketplace Plaza buzzes with activity as shoppers visit big box stores.

Life rarely gives us second-chances, but they do happen. Oro Valley Arizona has a second chance to decide what their Future should look like.  Town residents have banded into two groups, recall elections are November 3rd, emotions have flared-assault charges and lawsuits filed and election signs vandalized and tossed into the bushes. The usual politics one finds in Small Town USA all over the country. Oro Valley’s problem:  it’s one of the most beautiful places in the United States and finding the proper balance between preserving the Canon Del Oro Valley’s “Drop Dead Gorgeous” status and developing the town wanna be city so everybody is happy. Making everyone happy will be a tall order.

Walmart Shopping Center at MarketPlace

Walmart Shopping Center at MarketPlace

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Same view as above 40 years earlier…

Mainly, because Oro Valley has become a developer’s paradise and any change there will be bumping heads with BIG bucks. Oracle Road, which is State Highway 77, which is the town’s main drag has been a 7 mile construction zone for so long know one can remember when it started. Much of this work is ramping up and adding another lane, taking two lanes to three, making room for future development. They are also building expensive wild life crossings, both over and under styles. In Colorado they have found predators just await their prey on the blind side of these crossings and just gobble till they are full. Speedtrap.org lists 80,000 bothersome speed revenue mills and knows Hwy 77.

Developers in Oro Valley in recent years, have squeezed in 800 apartments, providing housing for Iowa farmers who want to get out of the snow.  Sun Dorado, the next generation of Mark-Taylor Apts, has the prime spot nestled into the Santa Catalina range at 1st Ave and Oracle Road, featuring the “largest health center you have ever seen in a apartment complex”, dog-friendly and walking access to all the unique shopping nearby. Mountain views cost extra, it’s cheaper to stare at Oro Valley and Oracle Rd, for a one bedroom it’s $930 with a view, large kitchen and a closet but a three bedroom with a view tops out around $1650-but up to six people  can sign the lease.  No one bedrooms available now, but some might open up.

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That boutique shopping experience as you leave San Dorado’s lighted gated community begins with CVS Drugs; store number 10,006 now found on most corners near you, the next shop is a FIRM mattress shop and everyone needs one, the next is a Nail Spa, also found everywhere. So the question facing the voters, what premium do you place on living in one of the most beautiful places in the U.S., or is growth-any growth worthwhile ?  Some voters might argue that building all those apartments at the junction of lst Ave and Oracle Road and providing pads for businesses found on most every street corner in Tucson on a spot which was the community’s focal point of the Catalina Mountains might have been insensitive and might better have been a green space for the community to feed their souls and revel in the beauty that GOD has provided.  That would not have made someone rich but it would have made the community richer.

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Catalina Arizona sits next to Oracle Road north of Sun CityRancho Vistoso just south of the Pima-Pinal County Line...in the distance stands the Santa Catalina Mountains

Catalina Arizona sits next to Oracle Road north of Sun CityRancho Vistoso just south of the Pima-Pinal County Line…in the distance stands the Santa Catalina Mountains

Oro Valley has some nice green spaces, along the (dry) riverbed–Steam Pump Ranch was a nice idea until it was squeezed in by gas stations and commercials strip malls, something was lost. Lunching on day at the amazing Saguaro Cafe in Oro Valley my dog engaged me in a conversation with two realtors who suggested Oro Valley’s real prosperity will come from commercial development along Tangerine Road. “It will be the next Speedway”, they agreed since it is a major I-10 to Oro Valley corridor.

Oro Valley Council members meet with residents explaining how

Oro Valley No vote Council members meet with residents explaining how “dirty” actions from the Mayor and the other YES votes for the new City of Oro Valley Recreation Center compromised  their vote with a rushed agenda. Councilman Mike Zinkin in the foreground, Councilen William Garner in RED, and Brendan Burns in blue behind.

Oro Valley residents listen to Councilmen opposed to the new rec center

Oro Valley residents listen to Councilmen opposed to the purchase of the Old Conquistador Country Club also stressed concerns about Golf dying as a business, water woes.  In Phoenix several golf course are rebranding their communities,  they are tearing out the fairways and adding boulevards. An uncertain future shadowed these concerns…

Now Oro Valley has a second chance to make the right decisions.  It is my opinion the present mayor, will continue to fuel development since a large portion of his election campaign has been financed by the folks doing the building, that’s the way politics works. Mayor Satish Hiremath is running to hold onto his office in the Nov. 3 recall election along with town council members Lou Waters, Joe Hornat and Mary SniderThe recall was initiated by the Oro Valley Citizens for Open Government after the Town Council voted 4-3 in December to buy El Conquistador Country Club and increase the town’s sales tax to raise money to remodel the facility into a community and recreation center. The council members facing recall all voted in favor of the proposal. The facility was purchased for $1 million and includes 324 acres, 45 holes of golf, 31 tennis courts and two swimming pools. A 31,475 square-foot building that requires renovation will be paid for with a half cent sales tax that took effect in March.

Rancho Vistoso in 1975, today this view is some one's front yard inside the HoneyBee Reserve gated community...

Rancho Vistoso in 1975 today its someone’s front yard in the HoneyBee Reserve gated community…

Oro Valley was incorporated in 1974 and has grown from a shady Oasis to one of the more prosperous communities in Arizona with almost 130,000 people within seven miles, incomes averaging around $70,000, it has been voted Best Place to Raise Kids, Good Place to Retire because of the strong property values and low crime. Truth is, Oro Valley and the Tortolita Mts

Arizona Governor Bruce Babbit turns over the soil dedicating Catalina State Park and at the same moment he opens Rancho Vistoso Sun City for business.

Arizona Governor Bruce Babbit turns over the soil dedicating Catalina State Park and at the same moment he opens Rancho Vistoso Sun City for business.

for decades was everyone’s backyard.  Quail Hunters reveled in the explosion of birds they found there, javalina hunters still tell tales of the hunt and folks like me, explored and hiked, searched for the wild herd of mustangs running free in those hills. After the land swap, when Governor Bruce Babbitt, created Catalina State Park and in return made possible Rancho Vistoso Sun City, locked gates started appearing–pushing long-time Tortolita Mountain lovers from their haunts. Thinking maybe when they are through building, I thought, but that is when the gated communities started popping up, so for most of us, it was goodbye to the Tortolitas. Growth has continued unabated, in 2008 when housing all over the U.S. died. Oro Valley barely skipped a beat sales slowed and inventory faded but not like the rest of the country.

Cows on trust land equals tax break, the field feed the cows. A lean farm operation.

Cows on trust land equals tax break, the field feed the cows. A lean farm operation.

In the early 1970’s John Ratliff and his associates requested that Pima County rezone a 4,000-acre parcel of land lying east of Oracle Road, north of Tucson. The property known as Rancho Romero was located adjacent to the western slopes of the Coronado National Forest’s Santa Catalina Mountains. The proposed development included a variety of housing units that would accommodate 17,000 people, which would surround golf courses along the Canada de Oro and Sutherland Washes. When this rezoning request came before the Pima County Planning and Zoning Commission, there was so much opposition from the public that the proposed plan was put on hold. Tucson residents said they preferred the preservation of this area as open space, with developed recreational facilities, this was the beginning of Catalina State Park. But not the last attempt by developers to put subdivisions on the east side of Oracle Road.

Before Oro Valley, the grassy field is today's Marketplace.

Before Oro Valley, the grassy field is today’s Marketplace.

Hilton Conquistador 1028

The Oro Valley Conquistador Hotel, the first construction on the east side of Oracle, has been on the auction block, off and on, last time was 2012. The 400 room structure began life as a Sheraton Hotel, then Hilton  presently Premier Hospitality Management maintains the contract. Its restaurants were a big draw in the beginning but as growth came to Oro Valley more restaurants came in and greater variety made expensive Mexican food less interesting.

Desert Springs was one proposal recently turned down, Sabino Springs popped up in 1990 but developers will be back.

Desert Springs was one proposal recently turned down, Sabino Springs popped up in 1990 but developers will be back.

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For me, the building East of Oracle Road is the most offensive.  West of Oracle, growth will continue north until it hits Oracle Junction, nothing will change that.  More than once, developers have attempted massive subdivisions featuring more than 500 homes, shops, condo and apartments east of Oracle Road where Tangerine Road intersects, Sabino Springs

Oracle Road after a winter dusting of snow.

Oracle Road after a winter dusting of snow.

was one name, others will come and they will keep coming until they get their prize butted up against Catalina State Park. Folks will awake in the campground and stare into someone’s back yard. SunChase Holdings Inc. pledged “a high quality project” that would be tasteful and would fit in with the surroundings. Another attempt for this prize was fought off in 1990, with a progrowth Mayor, they will get the land and that will be the beginning of the end for the Catalina Mountain Range.  Sunchase said they needed 85 acres with up to five homes per acre, 13 acre of five home per acre and up 11 acres of commercial and offices.  In between they plan to weave hiking and biking trails, blending stores, offices and a mix of housing types.  One caveat floated was the possibility of a Tram from Oro Valley to Mt Lemmon, making Oro Valley a must stop for all tourist blowing through Tucson.  Much shorter ride than when it was first suggested from downtown Tucson decades ago.

Oro Valley's First Avenue and Oracle Road has become downtown for the community...

Oro Valley’s First Avenue and Oracle Road has become downtown for the community…

With the new animal crossings on Oracle Road, any concern about “wildlife corridor” between the Catalina and the Tortolita Mountains pretty much go out the window, regardless of major habitat fragmentation. Big Horn statue A short while ago I listen to an Oro Valley resident wish she was living in SaddleBrook just up the road.  She was simply amazed by all the wildlife those residents enjoy. After the bright lights of Oro Valley chased off the last of the Desert Bighorn living atop Pusch Ridge-the town adopted the Bighorn as a symbol of the community erecting several life-sized statues throughout the town. Today new bighorn have been transplanted atop the nearby ridge but disease and mountain lions have taken their toll.

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Many years ago, I was out-raged by the wall built to block the view across the Canon Del Oro Wash that eliminates out the most perfect view of the mountains.  I was sure they just wanted to be sure everyone had their eye on the road (now they are texting) but after while I realized how wrong I was.  That wall is a sound barrier for all the expensive homes that soon will be built above the road level and on top of the first foothills, most money gets the highest spot. No one will pay big bucks for the spectacular sunset views if the road noise from below drowns out the elevator music.

Sound Wall for the big bucks lots yet to come.

Sound Wall for the big bucks lots yet to come.

It is all going to change soon, unless it is stopped now. The Town of Oro Valley Special Recall Election will be held Tuesday November 3, 2015.  A polling place election, voters may request an early mail ballot, for more information call the Pima County Recorder 520-724-4330…

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NW Overview

I began this blog pointing out that Oro Valley’s problem is that it is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. What I haven’t said is when folks finally end their long journey on I-10 and the Catalina’s finally come into view, there is a sigh, and I know I’m home again. We all take their beauty for granted but try to imagine that skyline without those hills and take stock in what we have and the responsibility to leave this beauty for the children, our future-what will Oro Valley look like tomorrow.

ORO VALLEY CITIZENS FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT

CITY OF ORO VALLEY

PIMA COUNTY RECORDER-REGISTERING TO VOTE

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