● April 3, 2020
TOWN PLANS TO HOLD VIDEO MEETINGS INSTEAD OF IN-PERSON FOR ROMSPEN FILING
On March 25th, Romspen filed a pre-application with Oro Valley to change the General Plan to allow development on 87 acres of the Vistoso Golf Course. Changes to the Town’s General Plan (approved by citizens in 2016) generally require public participation meetings but precautions put in place to protect citizens from the spread of the COVID-19 have led the Town to propose alternative procedures for this application.
Instead of holding public meetings on the pre-application, the Town is going to post a video on April 10th explaining the rezoning process to residents and asking residents to direct questions and concerns to ASKOV email@example.com or call 520-229-4711. The Town will also post a video from Romspen and Spectra that should provide an overview of rezoning applications. Subsequent video presentations will address questions and concerns from residents.
Preserve Vistoso is concerned that the revised plans for community feedback will limit your ability to participate effectively in the General Amendment process and so we have asked the Town to postpone the pre-application process until the Public Participation requirements can be met. Please see the Oro Valley Process Rezoning Guide for details on what is usually required before a rezoning application is accepted by the Town of Oro Valley. If you have any concerns or questions about the alternate process the Town is proposing to use for Romspen’s application, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and copy us at .
The news release below was sent to the Explorer newspaper this morning.
Thanks for your support. And, get your neighbors involved if they aren’t already members of Preserve Vistoso.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Community Group Opposes Rezoning of
Former Oro Valley Vistoso Golf Course
COVID 19 Precautions Could Limit Fair and Open Community Dialogue
ORO VALLEY, AZ April 3, 2020 -- Preserve Vistoso (preservevistoso.org), a non-profit (501c3) with more than 1,100 members, today announced opposition to plans by Romspen Investments, a Canadian non-bank mortgage lender, and Memphis, TN based Spectra Properties Inc., to rezone more than 87 acres of the former Vistoso Golf Course in northern Oro Valley.
Preserve Vistoso believes that the requirement for Oro Valley community input is seriously jeopardized by precautions in place to protect citizens from the spread of the COVID-19. The Oro Valley Public Code states that public meetings are set up to promote fair and open dialogue between stakeholders, applicants, and staff.
The Town announced that it will post videos on April 10th explaining the rezoning process to residents and ask residents to direct questions and concerns to ASKOV email@example.com or 520-229-4711. The Town also will post a video from Romspen and Spectra that will provide an overview of rezoning applications. Subsequent video presentations will address questions and concerns from residents.
While the Town of Oro Valley is attempting to manage the rezoning process under trying times, Preserve Vistoso believes that this process severely limits the ability of more than 1,000 residents to have a fair and open dialogue on the rezoning proposals impacting their neighborhoods.
“Since the rezoning proposals would alter the 2016 citizen- approved Oro Valley General Plan and Planned Area Development, the process must include in-person meetings,” said Michael Bilodeau, President of Preserve Vistoso. “We are in the middle of a national emergency and videotaped presentations would not provide for adequate citizen input. We need to focus on our family’s well being and health and not worry about attempts to rezone property in our backyards.”
Preserve Vistoso believes that the Town should push the pause button and put a moratorium on General Plan amendments by Romspen and Spectra until public meetings are possible and impacted residents can effectively voice their opinions.
Spectra Properties announced plans to build a large senior care facility on 38-acres of the former golf course driving range with buildings adjacent to nearby residential homes. Romspen has filed for rezoning of additional golf course property for residential development, including proposed high density residential areas near Vistoso Highlands Boulevard.
Romspen, a $3 billion Toronto investment company, acquired the Vistoso Golf Course in 2015 at a foreclosure auction when the owner of the property, IRI Golf Group LLC, defaulted on its mortgage loan. Attempts by Romspen Investments to sell the former golf course ended in June 2018 with the closing of the golf course. Preserve Vistoso was founded in 2019 so the community would to have a voice is what happens to the former golf course property.
Preserve Vistoso believes that the 208-acre golf course property should remain zoned as recreational to protect some of the last remaining Sonoran desert habitat in Oro Valley. The organization wants to turn the property into a nature preserve and community trail to benefit all Oro Valley citizens.
The former golf course was designed as a desert golf course and more than 70 percent of the property is desert habitat and a sanctuary for wildlife. Volunteers have identified eight different kinds of mammals, 29 species of birds, and at least five types of reptiles. It has spectacular mountain scenery, more than six miles of paved trails, three restrooms, existing parking areas, a pond, walking access from hundreds of homes and petroglyphs.
A recent survey by Trust for Public Land, a leading conservation group, puts Oro Valley near the bottom of the list of communities that provide residents with easy access to a park or recreational area. Only 15 percent of Oro Valley residents are within a 10-minute walk of a park or recreational facility, while the national average is 54 Percent. Oro Valley could change the Town rankings by preserving the 208 acres of the closed golf course as a nature preserve and community trail.
Trails in Honey Bee Park, along with Naranja Park in the central part of Oro Valley and nearby Catalina State Park are not appropriate for people with mobility problems – seniors or even families pushing strollers. Walking areas in Oro Valley’s Rancho Vistoso area generally are limited to sidewalks along busy streets.
Oro Valley is conducting an assessment of its Parks and Recreation facilities. The Rancho Vistoso community has voiced repeated concerns that most of the Town’s facilities are in the central part of the Town.
“Now is not the time for the Town Council to change its General Plan and rezone the former golf course when there is a need for more recreational areas north of Tangerine Road,” Bilodeau said.
Preserve Vistoso Board members have met with local and town officials, conservation groups and the State of Arizona. Representatives from the State of Arizona Parks and Trails recently toured the former golf course and told Preserve Vistoso representatives that acquisition grants could be available for half the purchase price of the property, based on a Yellow Book appraisal. Grants also could be available to help maintain the property. These grants are available to communities through government agencies, such as the Town of Oro Valley. Preserve Vistoso members told Oro Valley officials that it would help raise money for the purchase.
Preserve Vistoso invites all residents of Oro Valley and the Tucson area to join its effort at PreserveVistoso.org. Questions can be directed to PreserveVistoso@gmail.com.