Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Guest View-Don Bristow: More Sign Pollution Coming To Oro Valley

Last week the Oro Valley Town Council approved changes to the illuminated sign and ballon sign code.  Businesses will be allowed one additional neon sign within a six foot area. Baloons will be allowed.  Resident Don Bristow spoke against these measures. Here are his remarks and video of is remarks.
Since Mayor Hiremath and Councilmembers Hornat, Snider, and Waters have been on Council, they have backed over thirty changes to Oro Valley’s sign code. Why and how has there been a need for this many sign code changes? A look at proposed code changes for balloons and illuminated window signs illustrate the flawed basis for changing codes.

Illuminated Signs
On May 20, 2015 council received an approved a request for more and for significantly larger illuminated window signs. Under the current long-standing sign code, a business is allowed one non-flashing small illuminated open/close sign.

The proposed zoning-code amendment will allow a six square-foot area for illuminated signs near a front door. The area can contain one of more signs, and can be anything that relates to the business. For example, a restaurant could have several signs each promoting a different brand of beer.

Based on a records request that I made, there is no documented demand from the business community for bigger or more illuminated area for a window sign. However, there are violation complaints which I have filed due to lack of code enforcement

It is my opinion that the  ongoing failure of businesses to comply with code is due to the lack of code enforcement. As staff continued to receive complaints from regarding the same type of sign code violation, it is clear that the lack of enforcement is deliberate. To stop the complaints that validate the non-enforcement, staff put forth a proposal to amend the sign code, thus eliminating violation and any future need for enforcement.

Balloon Use Code Not Enforced

The use of balloons has always been prohibited in Oro Valley. Why is there a need now?

During a recent three-month period, town staff notified a business, using balloons during a grand opening, that the use of balloons was not allowed. However, staff allowed the balloons to remain.

According to a Caton email: "... after conversation with the [facility] staff, and realizing that the balloons were for a grand opening event, our staff backed off the issue and allowed the balloons to remain."

He continued in a communication to Council Member Snider: . If we are this adamant about allowing balloons, which I know we are, then we need to change the code to allow for balloons. What we have been operating under is a “work-around” and they are easy, but not full-proof"

A New Code Emerges

Work-around means ignoring the use of balloons and not enforcing the code.

In response to the Town Managers directive, staff created a new proposed code for the usage of balloons. Balloons would be restricted to a duration of five days, and only during grand openings or change in ownership. There is no limit on the quantity of balloons. Balloons size can be up to eighteen inches, and be lofted anywhere for eight to fifteen feet from grade when attached to a structure. They can only be use on private property.

My Conclusion

The Town should always consider the General Plan, goals and policies regarding signage and the purposes for sign codes before amending the sign code.

However Town staff, Planning and Zoning Commission, and Town Council have a history of selectively citing only those policies that fit their recommendation or ignoring them. The second common approach used by these bodies is to claim the interest of business are more important than those of the residents.

There is no factual evidence from the Town, the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce, or individual businesses that illuminated window signs or balloons effectively increase business. Even, the Arizona Sign Association is not aware of any studies about the effectiveness of balloons or illuminated window signs.

It is time to stop revising the sign codes based on the agendas of staff and Council. Changes should be considered based on our general plan, factual needs and benefits.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bits and Pieces

Zinkin promotes Oro Valley

Council Member Mike Zinkin recently completed a video extolling the virtues of Oro Valley. He prepared the video for the National League of Cities and Towns. Mike is Oro Valley's representative to the group. Watch the video. Tell us what you think.

Family fun passes for the Oro Valley Aquatic Center now available

Oro Valley, Arizona (May 14, 2015) - Do you want to save big money this summer and have fun at the coolest pool in town? Then be sure to purchase your Oro Valley Aquatic Center Family Fun Pass. The passes admit a family up to six, and are valid from Memorial Day (May 25) through Labor Day (Sept. 7). Cost for Oro Valley residents is $120; non-resident cost is $150. That's three months of unlimited access for the entire family! (The daily drop-in rate for a family up to six is $15.)

Visitors will enjoy an interactive splash pad, 130-foot water slide, 25-yard heated recreation pool, 50-meter heated competition pool, four springboard diving boards, family changing rooms, shaded bleachers, rest areas and a concession stand.

Passes can be purchased at the Oro Valley Aquatic Center, located in James D. Kriegh Park, 23 W. Calle Concordia. (Source: Oro Valley Press Release)

Free drive-in movie at the driving range Saturday night

"Oro Valley, Arizona (May 13, 2015) - Join your friends and neighbors for a FREE Drive-in Movie on the Driving Range! On Saturday, May 16 at approximately 7 p.m., the Town of Oro Valley will show a family-friendly (rated G or PG) movie on a giant, inflatable screen right on the driving range at the Oro Valley Community and Recreation Center, 11555 N. La Cañada Drive. You are welcome to drive in your golf cart or bring blankets and chairs to sit on the lawn. Food and beverages will be available for purchase." (Source: Oro Valley Press Release)

Is Oro Valley a speed trap?

KVOA interviewed Oro Valley Police Department Lt. Olsen. The article posted is that Oro Valley is not a speed trap.

According to Olson,"On average, we're writing about five speeding tickets a day. You know, over the course of 365 days, and if you consider that Oracle Road has about 50,000 vehicles traveling up and down it each day, that's one speeding ticket for every 10,000 cars. (Source: KVOA)

The article is based entirely on what the department says.

Commenting on the article, Oro Valley resident Chuck Davis wrote: "In this case, perception is reality. people believe it so its true. DO NOT SPEED IN ORO VALLEY. As a resident, I think that is a good thing."

Oro Valley to hold open house event in recognition of Building Safety Month

"Oro Valley, Arizona (May 20, 2015) - On Thursday, May 21, 3 - 5 p.m., the Oro Valley Development and Infrastructure Services Department will host a Building Safety Month Open House. The event, which is free to the public, will be held in Town Hall Council Chambers, 11000 N. La Cañada. Cake and refreshments will be served.

Members of the community are invited to stop by and meet Oro Valley building safety staff, share messages of support and learn about the services provided by the Town's building safety inspectors."(Source: Oro Valley Press Release)

Very Small Bits
  • The Oro Valley Community Center sign was ordered on April 15 from territorial sign company. Oro Valley paid $16,571.
  • The permanent sign for Naranja Park should go up within a few days.
  • The mold found in the occupied area of the community center is 1 square foot in size
  • Visit Tucson markets to the spanish speaking market at Vamos a Tucson
  • Only one Oro Valley resident spoke at Wednesday's public hearing on the Oro Valley 2015-16 budget.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Budget 2015-16; Oro Valley Planned Spending Exceeds Planned Revenues by 4.5%. Spend Up 28% in 2 years

Tonight, the Oro Valley Town Council will hold a public hearing on the 2015-16 town manager's recommended budget ("TMRB") of about $120mil.

Oro Valley's budget is up 28% in two years
The TMRB is $119.7 million. This is 12% more than this year's budget of $107mil. That budget was an increase of 14% from the prior year. In 2 years, the budget has grown 28%. The Oro Valley budget averaged about $95 million from 2012-2014.

The budget is not balanced from a revenue minus spending perspective
The town considers a budget to be balanced when the initial cash balance plus revenues equals the ending cash balance plus spending. That calculation includes both the opening and closing cash balance.

"The Town has historically included all resources available to set our spending cap to ensure that we have these funds budgeted in case Town Council authorizes their use during the year. In addition, by budgeting all sources, including fund balance, we avoid possible claims that we are 'hiding' money'." (Source: Oro Valley Communications Administrator Misti Nowak)

The TMRB is not balanced from a recommended revenue minus expenditure perspective. The recommended expenditure budget is about $84 million. This is $3.4 million more than the anticipated revenue budget.

Analyzing Oro Valley's budget in complicated 

Analyzing the Oro Valley proposed budget is not easy. This is because Oro Valley has 24 different funds. Each fund has its own budget.

One has to analyze the recommended budgets of a number of funds in order to assess town operations (see right panel).

Complicated? You bet. Here's our quick peek.

There are 5 major sources of Oro Valley revenues.
Revenues from sales and other taxes, the State of Arizona, charges for services, grants, and water sales are 83% of Oro Valley's TMRB revenues.

Budgeted revenues are based on the assumption of "modest economic growth." The budget anticipates modest commercial growth: "We expect this to be very slow in the short term and gradually increase as more homes are added to the community."(TMRB p i and ii)

The revenue budget was adjusted downward after the issuance of the TMRB because one of two significant projects included in making this budget estimate, the new K-5 elementary school in Rancho Vistoso, was deferred to next year by the Amphi School District. This reduced TMRB budgeted revenues by $420,000.

Spending is primarily for operations
From an overall perspective, there are four components of Oro Valley's planned spending. Day-to-day operations are two-thirds of this. Capital improvements are a bit over a quarter. The rest is to pay debt.

Oro Valley continues to make a major investment in its town employees
Last year, the town granted one-time pay increase adjustments plus a merit compensation increase to town employees.

"The FY 2015/16 Recommended Budget continues the commitment to recognize the efforts of our Town employees with capacity included of approximately $580,000 for public safety employee step increases and up to a 4% performance merit increase for non-public safety employees."

Town Manager Caton states in the TMRB that these increases are necessary in order to keep employee pay competitive. Caton asserts that increases avoid the employee turnover cost of hiring and training new employees.

The community center has an $8 million budget impact
"In 2015/16, the largest addition to this area is the Community and Recreation Center. This is a new division within the Parks and Recreation Department and adds over $8 million in operational and capital expenses and accompanying revenues of over $7.4 million, including the 0.5% dedicated sales tax revenues of $2 million. These operations will be accounted for in a new fund, the Community Center and Golf Fund." (TMRB p vi)

Without the community center, the TMRB would be about $112mil. The increase over prior year would be about $5mil. The percent increase would be 4.5%.

Want to learn more about the TMRM? Access it here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Heather's Corner: Oro Valley Artist Wendy Timm: A Most Connected Soul With Nature

There is something to be said about those whom have a special connection with nature. Almost a sixth sense and certainty about their place in the world. But not everyone can harness the stillness to soak in all that surrounds them; in this case, the desert, the mountains, and critters of Oro valley, and in return find creative inspiration. You are about to discover an artist who does exactly that.

Originally from Wisconsin, Wendy Timm received a B.F.A. in Art Education from the University of Arizona. She has taught public school art education for K-12, programs for Pima County Parks and Recreation, and at Pima Community College. She credits her sense of humor and love of nature and animals for her imagery and no doubt they are harmoniously combined in her pieces. It wasn't until she bought an acre of land in Oro Valley, however, that she "really had the opportunity to become unified with the desert life around" her.
Wendy with at tiny female Quail she rescued

Her resident studio she calls, "Wicked Wind Studios," is where she specializes in one-of-a kind hand-built raku, stoneware pottery, tiles, ornaments, and sculptures. Twice yearly, in April and December, she holds open studios, where collectors can admire exhibits with a showing of her latest works. Admirers are also encouraged to investigate the winding trails of her exquisite gardens with the strong likelihood of stumbling upon hidden sculptured treasures and even one or two desert dwellers she welcomes with open arms, literally.

When not creating as an artist, you can find Wendy picking prickly pear fruit for teas, rescuing wildlife, and enjoying the sights and sound of Oro Valley, as just an all around nature enthusiast.

We asked her about her strong connection to nature and what Oro Valley offers in terms of inspiration.

"It may be hard for me to explain but when I look out in the yard I do not just see the multiple varieties of cacti, trees, and shrubs. I see things not only in context of art elements and principles of design, I also have become a student of their biology. The play of light, the incredible textures, the subtle hues draw you in but I also love the planting, the nurturing, and the gardening involved.

My yard is a certified wildlife habitat and I certainly have always been an animal lover. The first javelina and desert cottontail sculptures I created were back in 1991 and I had only photos to base my work on. Now the subjects of my work live around me, and at times, with me. Though I have many ideas and designs that are not desert related the heart and soul of my sculptural work is inspired from the beauty and energy that surround me here at my Oro Valley home/studio."

Although we missed the Spring open house, I think we could all benefit from being in the presence of her work so I'm planning on going in December. In the meantime you can check the artist out on Facebook,including glorious photos of previous work and her critter friends from bobcats on her roof to napping javelina on the patio, or her website.It is truly rare that someone expresses such a genuine appreciation for the world around them. We are lucky to have Wendy in our community capturing the details of Oro Valley's backyard.
Heather Nenadovich has lived in Oro Valley for 6 years. She has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Arizona. She loves gardening, nature, art, and travel. Currently her two young children fill up most of her days (and nights) with chaotic bliss. Oro Valley favorites: memorial bench at the entrance of Romero Canyon Trail in Catalina State Park, Toscana Studio and Gallery, OV Fall Festival, the gumption and determination of OV residents!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Oro Valley El Conquistador Country Club Purchase: A Great Deal For HSL Properties

A lifetime use of golf course and tennis facilities at under market rates are just two of the benefits for HSL Properties in its sale of the El Conquistador Country Club to the Town Of Oro Valley.

HSL's Benefits Are Many
These and other benefits to HSL are detailed in agreements that the town signed when it purchased the El Conquistador Country Club earlier this month. The agreement includes priority bookings for tee times and the full use the golf courses and tennis facilities.

The Hilton El Conquistador Resort looks like a four star Hilton resort but does not have the huge and money losing proposition of operating golf and tennis facilities.

The agreement is a "no recourse" agreement.  Oro Valley will bear the full cost of remediation for any reason.

The agreement stipulates that the sale is at a bargain price. That purchase price is $1million. Thus, HSL may be entitled to a large donation deduction on their tax return. Who knows how much of a tax deductible loss they will claim, a loss that returns 30 cents on the dollar. Remember too that HSL purchased the resort and property out of bankruptcy for an estimated $15million.

Oro Valley's Benefits Are Few
Mayor Hiremath, the rest of the Majority-4, and Town Manager Caton tout this purchase as great deal for Oro Valley.  They claim that the town gets a community center. They claim that they are protecting land from possible future development. Many question these assertions.

Instead of a first class community center, Oro Valley gets to rehabilitate 2 plus golf courses, refurbish an old building, and operate at least some of these facilities for 2 generations. Oro Valley will spend an added $8+mil plus to fund this endeavor in 2015-16 alone, with millions to follow for at least the next 4 years.

Oro Valley has assumed a contract with Troon Golf. It is a contract that, given the timing and circumstances, HSL negotiated on behalf of the town. The town avoided competitive bidding requirements even though it has been party to the Troon discussions for some time. Troon, for example, attended and spoke at the Oro Valley council meetings in December. 

What options does Oro Valley have if things don't work out?

It looks as if those who live along or use the El Conquistador Course will be the first to know. The town has the option of closing this course. The town could let this course return to desert. Or, perhaps, the town could sell it for whatever purpose it wishes. It seems that not all of the property owners were protected in the purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club, as alleged by Mayor Hiremath.

What else can the town do?  By agreement, the town must keep at least one course operating, the La Canada course. If it abandons that course, HSL has the right to lease it from the Town Of Oro Valley for $10,000 per year, plus a stipend that repays Oro Valley over 50 years, interest free, for any improvements the town makes to that course. If Oro Valley closes the 9 hole resort course, the agreement requires the town to maintain it as a park. What a great benefit for the El Conquistador Resort.

Benefits To Oro Valley's 41,000 residents are few
Residents get to pay a half cent sales tax increase. They get to drive to a golf club to visit their community center, a building that has no physical closeness to any park or recreation center. Indeed the community center will be a "an island unto itself."

Those who are members of any of Oro Valley's private golf courses will see the Town competing for golf memberships and player rounds. Pricing will become even more competitive because. unlike a private club, the town seems to think that it has an infinite well of revenue to support what could turn out to be a huge long term financial and operating headache.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bits and Pieces

Some claim that smart water meters pose a hazard
The Oro Valley Water Department is replacing manually read water meters with smart meters.  Smart meters use cellular data transmission of water usage to a central database. You can access the information that is uploaded using the "Water Hawk" website.  This website is  quite informative.  A user can how much water they have been using by hour for each day that the meter has been installed.  This is very helpful and useful to you in managing water usage. For example, you can easily determine how much water your drip system uses. Or, if there is a leak.

At last weeks town council meeting, two Oro Valley Residents asked that the town create an opt-out option from the towns smart water meter program. They believe that the transmission of this information can be a health hazard.  We checked with the American Cancer Society website and found interesting information about this. Generally, the amount of radiation omitted by the Smart Water meters is less than what you get with a cell phone.  Also, unlike your cell phone which is nex to your head, the Smart Water meter is located far from your home. The risk of your getting any radiation from his minimal.

That said, there is a privacy issue.  Do you want the town to be able to determine how much water you are using by the time of day and day of week?  We don't care.

Russell Ranch School For Boys Follow Up Coming
Several weeks back, Heather wrote about an Oro Valley Treasure: The Russell Ranch School for Boys. The school was run until 1950.  As a result of that posting, the Pat Marshall, the granddaughter of the founders contacted us. She wanted to know if we were interested in learning more. Pat has pictures and memoirs about the school that need a home. Heather plans to work with her to find a permanent home with the Oro Valley Historical Society. Heather will tell us more in a future posting. read what others say
Have you see the two tabs we've added on LOVE. They are next to the tab labelled "LOVE"  One tab is Oro Valley news. The other is news from Pima County. These tabs present the news of the traditional news sources so you can keep up with everything right her on love.

Long Realty: Oro Valley housing market improves in April
"In the Oro Valley area, April 2015 active inventory was 316, a 10% decrease from April 2014. There were 81 closings in April 2015, a 16% increase from April 2014. Year-to-date 2015 there were 245 closings, a 4% increase from year-to-date 2014. Months of Inventory was 3.9, down from 5.0 in April 2014. Median price of sold homes was $242,000 for the month of April 2015, down 5% from April 2014. The Oro Valley area had 102 new properties under contract in April 2015, up 21% from April 2014." (Source)