Posts Tagged ‘Oro Valley’

15th April
2011
written by madge

UofA President Robert Shelton is making a big dollar power play to gain control of over $150 million sitting on the balance sheet in the University Medical Center. After running the medical operations to the brink of disaster, the medical operations were spun off to run more like a private sector operation. University Medical re-calibrated and became a successful part of our community and a leading teaching hospital that graduated thousands of pharmacist, nurses and doctors.

Now UofA President, Robert Shelton, wants to take hundreds of millions of cash reserves and all future profits from UMC out of Health Sciences and use them to make up his own black hole deficits at the UofA. This is wrong.

Shelton’s dash for our cash is a political play dictated by the Arizona Board of Regents and encouraged by Fred DuVal to curry favor amongst the academics so he can run for office in 2012.

Regent Rick Meyer is the CEO of C-Path which is in the medical research industry.  Meyer is seeking the good favor of Shelton and the potential research business it could mean to his company. If you remember c-path has been supported by Oro Valley (Explorer News 2009), Marana, Tucson, Pima County and of course The University of Arizona (funding sources HERE).  Guess where c-path built their first medical lab with all the financial support from Southern Arizona?  If you answered Tucson, Oro Valley or Marana you would be wrong – the $2.2 million grant opened a $2.2 million lab in Phoenix.  How’s that for a return on investment?

The only public source of funding mentioned on their web site with a Phoenix presence is……you guessed it, the UofA.  Shelton sites more medical research if he’s in control of UMC, cpath works in the medical research field, coincidence?

Is Rick Meyers deeply embroiled in the middle of a big fat conflict of interest?

If I were a taxpayer of Marana I’d be upset.  If I were a taxpayer of Tucson I’d be upset. If were a taxpayer of Pima County I’d be upset.  As a taxpayer from Oro Valley…..I’m down right pissed off.  We may have tax increases to pay for cops while we’ve invested for years  in c-path only to see them open a lab and create jobs in Phoenix! Loomis and KC, thanks.

Meyer and DuVal are all over this mess and someone needs to reign them in or kick them off the board. Shelton has overstepped his authority and should be ousted as the President. How does the legislature real in or hold Shelton accountable? Through none other than the Board of Regents.

Would a freedom of information request show any email trails between any of these players?

What grants or contracts does c-path and the UofA have in the hopper?  Follow the money and drop a line over to The Goldwater Institute for me  would you.

Call your legislator at the Capitol today and tell them to support community based medicine at UMC — not Shelton’s money grab.

Don’t allow Robert Shelton soil our community with his bad policy.

Here’s the story and Meyer’s quote;

…….

It makes sense, Myers said, to step back, talk and figure out how to move forward together, as opposed to continuing with a potentially harmful power struggle.

He had a “cordial discussion” with UA Healthcare’s board chairman, Granger Vinall, on Thursday, Myers said. Vinall did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

But the regents’ repeal may not be enough to stop legislators from pursuing their own plan.

“So as soon as we back down, they’ll do it the day after?” asked Sen. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert. It was Biggs who successfully engineered a vote Wednesday to statutorily override the regents’ plan.

That’s also the concern of Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista.

“They (regents) could come right back after we’re out of session,” he said, noting lawmakers hope to adjourn by the end of the month. “And then we’ve got eight months where we couldn’t do anything.”

Regent Myers said that’s not the intent.

But he said that doesn’t mean the regents are scrapping the idea of ever approving a plan just like the one that caused the legislative dust-up in the first place.

“Nothing is precluded,” Myers said. “But nothing is preordained.”

Everyone in state government has a role to play in the future of the hospital and medical school, Myers said. “Our role is to do what’s best for the university and the people of Arizona.”

But regents Chair Fred DuVal said the concerns of Biggs and Stevens are unwarranted and that the regents won’t try to pull a fast one on legislators.

“Having just taken $198 million in cuts, we do not in any measure underestimate the power of the Legislature to express themselves in ways that matter to us,” said DuVal, referring to the just-approved state budget for the coming fiscal year.

Stevens remains skeptical of both the board and its president.

“Fred DuVal’s trying to run for the U.S. Senate,” Stevens said. “This is a ploy to get his name out in the press, to get him notoriety so he can run for (retiring Sen. Jon) Kyl’s seat.”

DuVal said he’s not looking for publicity and not running for the Senate. He also said the changes being considered are not partisan, noting they date to when a Republican was regents president.

What won’t happen, DuVal said, is what many interpreted as a last-minute and secretive process about the change.

23rd September
2009
written by JHiggins

Is a dramatic OV council hearing, David Andrews was terminated tonight by a 4-3 vote. After motions, open meeting law violation accusations, recesses and a dramatic call to the audience the Mayor Loomis had the votes to oust the long time town manager David Andrews.  Andrews rose from the finance department to steward the town through 18 years of balanced growth and a high quality of life. Mayor Paul Loomis, KC Carter, Paula Abbott and Al Kunisch voted to terminate and Bill Garner, Salette Latas and Barry Gillaspie voted to retain the town manager.  Abbot strangely eluded to “reasons that shouldn’t be made public” as grounds for termination.

The entire process was highly questionable and not very forthcoming by the majority. I’ve personally had an opportunity to work with and spend considerable time with Andrews and found him to be a true champion for Oro Valley. He’s invested in the community and after 18 years in town management I think the results judge for themselves. 

Here’s one guy that’s happy with tonights vote:

Dr. Hiremath is a candidate for Mayor Loomis’ job as Mayor of Oro Valley.  This termination may be the end of Loomis and those on the wrong side of the vote.  Keep and eye on Let Oro Valley Excel which is listed in the blog rolls on Tucson Choices.

Tune in to Wake Up Tucson tomorrow morning at 6am on 1030 am. You’re going to get an earful.

Got a note for Mayor Loomis? Here’s his contact info (520) 229-4700 or ploomis@orovalley.net
 

1st April
2009
written by Mike

As the  leaders in Tucson continue to run in circles around the major issues like baseball, downtown redevelopment, convention centers, gem shows and the like there is a larger drumbeat going that says write off the City of Tucson and focus on areas and other assets that are easier to work with. Marana has the land and the forward thinking, Oro Valley has the tech focus, great schools and high end neighborhoods. Even Sahuarita is cultivating a family friendly community that is planning beyond the bedroom community lable it has today.  Should we put a virtual fence around the City of Tucson and focus on municipalities the get with the program?

Plans are percalating as we speak for baseball and much much more. These plans are being discussed and thought through by communities other than Tucson.  Here’s a concept for amature and pro baseball the Musuem of Art and BioTech clusters;
A 600-acre parcel now dominated by two gravel pits is the proposed site for a mixed-use development that would include a new baseball complex for spring training.
(photo: Jim Davis / Arizona Daily Star)

Site of 2 gravel pits in Marana area proposed for spring-training complex
Development could have 2-team stadium, 16-field practice facility, hotel, golf course

By Brian J. Pedersen
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
08.07.2008

The impending departure of the Chicago White Sox has left spring training baseball in Tucson in a hole. But a local developer is proposing to use an actual hole in the ground to stop the major-league migration out of town by building a new baseball complex on the Northwest Side. A 600-acre parcel west of Interstate 10, between Orange Grove and Sunset roads — now dominated by two gravel pits — could be the perfect spot for a mixed-use development that would include a two-team baseball stadium and a 16-field practice facility, developer David Graham said he believes. The development would also include a resort hotel and an 18-hole golf course built into a pit that is still being mined by property owner CPC Southwest Materials Inc.

Local officials and community leaders would like to recruit more teams to Tucson, but their efforts have been hampered by the lack of facilities. “I’m a great believer in turning something ugly into something beautiful,” said Graham, who is operating under the name of Orange Sunset Management LLC. “Both of those pits are not the nicest things to look at. The owners would like to do something with those two holes in the ground. ” Graham, who was the creative force behind converting a former gravel pit at Continental Ranch into what is now the Pines Golf Club at Marana, said building baseball fields in a 20-foot-deep pit will allow the slopes of the pit to be incorporated into the design as natural viewing areas for spectators.

The site is on land currently within Marana, unincorporated Pima County and Tucson, going from north to south respectively. Graham said he believes this is a plus for the project because it would require all three entities to be involved in the planning. “This is a regional problem that requires a regional solution,” said Graham, noting he has had informal discussions with officials from each government. “All three jurisdictions are aware of this project at varying levels,” he said.

A regional effort to keep spring-training baseball alive in Southern Arizona has been under way since November 2006, when the White Sox announced they were breaking their lease at Tucson Electric Park to move into a new two-team complex in Glendale in 2009 or 2010. In April, the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved the formation of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority. The group, made up of local business and community leaders, has been looking for ways to keep the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies from following the White Sox out of town, in addition to seeking additional major-league teams to train here. That group is trying to get the state Legislature to pass a bill authorizing a county election on a sales tax to fund renovations to TEP and Hi Corbett Field and for the construction of new facilities.

A bill was introduced late in the last legislative session but was not brought up for a vote. The gravel pit location is the second potential stadium site proposed by private developers. The first, identified in March, was suggested for northwest of the I-10/Tangerine Road interchange on land owned by Colorado-based MSP Properties, though owner Marcus Palkowitsch said no formal plans for a stadium exist. “We haven’t put any pen to paper,” Palkowitsch said. Although both proposed sites fall either partially or entirely within Marana, that doesn’t mean Marana is the only place with options for a new stadium, Sports and Tourism Authority Chairman Tom Tracy said. It just means private landowners in that area have been the first to come forward with ideas.

“At some point, after our funding is in place, we’re going to reach out to any and all people who would like to make a proposal,” said Tracy, who spoke to the Marana Town Council Tuesday night during a special meeting to discuss spring training. “We are excited that Marana wants to be a part of the solution.” Marana’s extensive freeway frontage, much of which is still undeveloped, makes the town an ideal spot for a baseball complex, Marana Mayor Ed Honea said. “It’s really about location,” Honea said. “Spring training teams like the idea of being on I-10. You can drive from Tempe to Tangerine Road in an hour and 15 minutes.” The Orange Grove/Sunset project could be done as early as 2011, Graham said, assuming all agreements needed for the development were in place by the end of this year or early in 2009.That includes getting the Regional Transportation Authority to move up its timetable for extending Sunset west from I-10 to Silverbell Road and building a bridge over the Santa Cruz River. That project is currently slated to begin no earlier than 2017.

Graham’s development would also likely require bank protection work to be done on parts of the Santa Cruz and Rillito rivers and the Cañada del Oro Wash, all of which run through the property. Graham said no formal talks have occurred on that subject. “That’s one of the items on the list,” he said. The county is aware of the gravel pit idea, but no formal presentation has been made to county officials, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said. Huckelberry said he doesn’t know whether the project is a viable option. “Anything is possible,” Huckelberry said. “I just view it as another development proposal right now.” City of Tucson officials did not return calls made by the Star for comment.

Oro Valley courts Tucson Museum of Art
By Lourdes Medrano
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
08.07.2008

Oro Valley officials are working on an incentive package that might entice the Tucson Museum of Art to expand to the town. “We’ve identified six sites, some public, some private,” said Town Manager David Andrews, who declined to divulge the locations. “We just need to look at the feasibility of those and determine what the museum of art’s level of interest might be.” On Friday, Mayor Paul Loomis, Andrews, other town officials and area business leaders met with Robert Knight, the museum’s executive director. Knight plans to make a formal presentation to the Town Council at its Sept. 3 regular meeting, said Oro Valley spokeswoman Mary Davis.

Museum officials also have visited Marana, but the town does not have a proposal in the works, said spokesman Rodney Campbell. Although it’s premature to talk about specific plans to attract the museum, Andrews said, one option may be for the town to provide land to the museum while the private sector makes its own contribution. “It could be that the private sector might want to put together some funding and then buy a private parcel,” he said. The museum would be a great community entity and a boost to preservation arts projects such as Steam Pump Ranch, he said. The private sector would benefit, he said, because the more amenities a community has, the greater its chances of recruiting and retaining employees.

Knight was traveling and could not be reached to comment. But museum spokeswoman Meredith Hayes said Oro Valley is one of several sites museum officials are considering. The museum has outgrown its Downtown location, where parking and directional signs have been long-standing concerns, Hayes said. “What we’ve been doing is looking at expansion opportunities,” she said. “We’ve got opportunities with a number of major collections that could be given to the museum, and we need space to display those.”

Hayes said that in May the museum’s board of trustees directed Knight to continue working with the city to resolve some of the issues affecting the Downtown location, as well as look toward long-term expansion. “There could be even a satellite location out there,” she said of expanding to the Northwest Side. No immediate decisions are expected in September, when Knight reports his findings to the board, she said. “We’ve got so many options on the table that it behooves us to really look at each one of those options and find out what is best for the museum and for the community as a whole,” Hayes said.

 

Biotech flourishes in Oro Valley

Led by Ventana Medical, firms create industry cluster

Sept. 2nd 2008

A key goal among Phoenix bioscience interests is to create a cluster of research companies that offer high-wage jobs and discover important breakthroughs.

That idea is that a critical mass of companies located near one another would draw batches of smart, talented workers who seek out those employers for challenging and lucrative careers. Such an achievement would spur the type of wealth and innovation that could drive the region’s economy.

But some biotech observers believe such a cluster may be emerging in Arizona, just 90 miles south of the Valley in the growing southern Arizona bedroom community of Oro Valley.

The freshest evidence of that is Ventana Medical Systems’ recent purchase of a 17-acre site next to its existing campus. About six months after Swiss drug giant Roche plunked down $3.4 billion to purchase Ventana, the company acquired a large chunk with an eye toward a major expansion of its tissue-diagnostics business.

Ventana isn’t the only company that has planted its biotech roots in the Tucson suburb. French drugmaker sanofi-aventis is building a new research lab in the same technology park where Ventana is headquartered, and the small-but-growing tech firm Integrated Biomolecule Corp. also is expanding its work force.

All companies have ties to the University of Arizona, and all the companies have big growth plans.

“This is a good model of what you want to happen in Phoenix and Flagstaff,” Walt Plosila, a senior adviser to Ohio-based Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, said of the emerging Oro Valley cluster.

Science Foundation Arizona President and Chief Executive Officer William Harris also has taken note. The foundation’s charge is to improve the state’s science and technology initiatives through strategic investments in companies and education.

“It shows how you can diversify the economy,” Harris said.

Similar efforts are under way to foster such bioscience growth in the Phoenix area.

The state of Arizona and city of Phoenix has invested tens of millions on a downtown biomedical hub anchored by the Translational Genomics Research Institute and a new medical school. And Arizona State University’s five-year-old Biodesign Institute is beginning to churn out companies in research areas as alternative energy.

But Plosila and others believe that the Phoenix-area’s growing biotech scene has not reached a critical mass of private bioscience companies yet that rivals such clusters as San Diego, San Francisco or Boston.

Phoenix and Flagstaff have made some biotech niches, particularly in medical-device manufacturing. The keys to attracting more research jobs and company clusters are sustained, targeted investment to nurture good ideas and attract private capital.

“It is sort of the entrepreneurial hotbed of Arizona in terms of research and development,” Plosila said of Oro Valley.

 

University of Arizona roots

 

Ventana, in particular, shows the potential for one idea to have a major impact on the community, Harris said.

Dr. Thomas Grogan, a UA pathology professor, started the company in the mid-1980s over his frustration with the accuracy of cancer tests. He developed his own testing methods, arranged findings and built a company that went public in 1996 until its purchase by Roche this year.

“It’s the genius of one person who created an idea that has been purchased by Roche and has created a lot of wealth,” Harris said.

Today, Ventana employs about 900. About 600 research and development, executive, administrative and manufacturing positions are at the company’s headquarters, and the company has 165 positions it plans to fill, spokeswoman Alana Bolton said.

The company has not laid out detailed plans for its expansion other than to say Roche’s global business and international ties are expected to generate more jobs in Oro Valley.

“We will be the hub and center for tissue-based diagnostics for cancer,” Bolton said. “We will grow and get bigger.”

Among the major pharmaceutical companies, Roche has been the most aggressive in pursuing the personalized drugs based on a person’s genetic makeup.

“The reason why Roche bought Ventana is because they recognize personalized medicine will only come from having the expertise that Ventana has,” said Ray Woosley, president and chief executive officer of the Tucson-based Critical Path Institute, a non-profit group that works with federal regulators and biotech companies to speed the approval process for pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

On the heels of its Ventana acquisition, Roche is seeking to further bolster its biotech business with an attempt to purchase South San Francisco-based Genentech. Genentech has rebuffed Roche’s initial offer of $89 per share but has appointed a special committee that will consider subsequent offers.

Roche largely plans to keep Ventana’s operations and culture in tact. One sign of that is that Ventana CEO Christopher Gleeson has retained his position. Bolton declined to say how many people left the company after the merger.

 

More expansion

 

Sanofi-aventis is another pharmaceutical company that is investing millions in Oro Valley. The drugmaker is building a $60 million research lab slated to open in June. The company now employs 60 chemists, biologists and other staff. The new facility has the capacity for 108 workers, but the company has no firm timeline on when those positions will be filled, spokeswoman Janet Metz said.

Sanofi-aventis has recruited scientists from UA as well as attracted talent from out of state. “They (Oro Valley) seem to be building the new biotech hub, and that’s where we wanted to be,” Metz said.

Robert Green has seen the growth of Oro Valley’s biotech sector since relocating his company to the town in 2004. His company, Integrated Biomolecule Corp., provides services such as analytical testing and product development for pharmaceutical companies.

“It was a town that clearly said they would like us to be here and like us to help build a biotech cluster,” said Green, who founded the company in his garage and later worked from UA’s science and technology park before locating to Oro Valley.

He said Oro Valley has a wide range of housing prices and quality schools, two factors that help draw employees.

“For years, we were an outpost in Oro Valley with clients out of state,” Green said. “Now that is switching. We have a lot of support with companies in the state. All of this clustering activity contributes to that.”

Representatives of the region’s main economic development group, Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, said years of investment in UA is beginning to pay off for southern Arizona.

TREO counts more 100 biotech companies employing more than 2,000 non-hospital workers in the Tucson-Oro valley region.

“The investment in the university system is paying huge economic dividends for us now,” said David Welsh, TREO’s senior vice president for strategic partnerships.

Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis said large employers such as Ventana benefit the town more than just economically. The company supports a half marathon and cultural groups such as the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council.

“They are the flagship of our biotech community,” Loomis said.

12th March
2009
written by JHiggins

Oro Valley made a deal with a developer to put in the Oro Valley Marketplace. It’s been a hotly contested deal and cost a few council people their seat. The development agreement involved a $23 million sales tax rebate back to the developer.

Goldwater Institute has taken a case to the Arizona Supreme Court arguing that the use of sales tax rebates are allowing local governments to selectively favor one private firm over another.

OV put the payments they agreed to into an escrow account until the court issues a ruling.  From teh AZ Republic today:

At issue is a 2007 agreement between the city and the development under which the developer, after constructing and opening 1.2 million square feet of retail space and parking garages with 3,180 free spaces, would receive 50 percent of sales taxes collected by the city from the development during the previous year. The agreement would go for 11 years, 3 months or until the total reached $97.4 million, whichever comes first.

More broadly, the case is about the circumstances under which cities may enter economic development agreements with private organizations – whether it is sales-tax breaks to major retailers or property-tax breaks to proposed resorts or offices……

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

The Goldwater Institute has until March 23 to respond. Then the other side is permitted a response. After that, the court will schedule the case for review. On that day, the court will decide whether or not to hear the case. If it rejects the case, the Appeals Court ruling banning the agreement stands. If it accepts the case, a briefing schedule will be drafted and a date will be set for oral argument. The court then would rule, but is not required to follow a particular schedule.

 

The outcome on this has ramifications for a number of deals already done, not to mention future projects.

5th February
2009
written by Arizona Kid
Dave Perry, the new editor of the Explorer is a new comer to our region but he’s sizing things up pretty well. He knows his market, his readers and his advertisers. The Explorer realizes that without attention paid to all three it’s tough to earn a living in the print newspaper business. Just ask Kimble over at the Citizen. Their catering to the liberal no growth, environment above all else, not in my back yard crowd has drove the advertisers away and locked our community in a death spiral that may be tough to come out of.

The Explorer could step into a vacuum by becoming a right to center publication that discusses things like economic development, reducing government and pointing out that growth may actually be a good thing for a community.   How about expanding the Explorer through the foothills and Tanque Verde valley?  Just look at the Republican voter rolls and distribute your paper in those neighborhoods.  We have private sector jobs, send our kids to charter or private schools, love the environment but within reason, believe government should get out of most of the things they are in and most importantly SPEND MONEY with your advertisers. Kudos to Dave, keep up the great work! 

Enough to make you twitch

 

By Dave Perry, The Explorer
Published:
February-04-2009
Information about Oro Valley government, its finances, its budget, its future, its legal agreements and more is flying about so quickly that consumers begin to twitch.
Recognizing The Explorer is not the end-all of information — let’s not take ourselves too seriously — consider these reports about Oro Valley:
• In a time of housing malaise, Oro Valley is raising its residential and commercial development review fees by multiple fold. Town appointed and elected officials claim fiscal responsibility and cost recovery; builders say “ouch.” Given the level of anticipated construction activity in the short term, those review fees won’t make much difference in the town’s revenue stream. Builders won’t be building much … or they’ll look elsewhere. There’s a proposal in Tucson to waive some construction-related fees for a year, to encourage activity. A tale of two cities?
• Oro Valley is looking at a decline in revenue for the next fiscal year, to the tune of $4.2 million. Thankfully, for decision-makers and residents alike, Oro Valley has alternatives — use some of its reserve funds, raise taxes or cut spending. The utility tax comes up for council review in April. A fascinating decision awaits. Eliminate the tax, leave more money with residents, figure out another place to find money and/or cut spending? Raise the tax, as a way to overcome the projected shortfall? Just what, exactly?

• The town council decided, on a 6-1 vote, to halt payments on its economic development agreements, pending the ultimate resolution of a Phoenix case in the Arizona Supreme Court. The much-criticized EDAs may be in violation of the constitutional “gift clause,” as interpreted through the CityNorth case regarding Phoenix that has been decided by the Arizona Court of Appeals, city attorney Tobin Rosen has said.

Correctly, Oro Valley would place funds that would have gone to business interests in escrow, pending any highest-court resolution. Further, Mayor Paul Loomis, who voted against the Oro Valley Marketplace incentives, voted against suspension of EDA payments, too. Why? Premature suspension, Loomis argues, and it’s a good argument.

Soon, we would expect, the development interests in those agreements shall file legal claims against the Oro Valley decision. Why wouldn’t they — millions of dollars are at stake.

Incidentally, dear voters, in March 2006 you approved the Oro Valley Marketplace EDA.

• The Greater Oro Valley Arts Council fears town funds for the Fourth of July celebration are in limbo. GOVAC has put on its celebration for 10 years, and it has asked for $50,000 from the town to do it again. Town Manager David Andrews countered with $25,000. GOVAC has called its supporters to action.

It’s a fine celebration, certainly. It’s an expensive one, too. As government wrestles with fewer funds, it may have to curb its contribution to this celebration of America’s birth.

What’s it all mean? That’s the overriding, more difficult, extremely complicated question. Municipal funding is predicated upon growth, no property taxes for operation, state-distributed funds and sales tax revenue certain to decline in the short term. Hard choices must be made. Government cannot maintain its existing level of service without making those choices.

A step back, a breath caught, and a good conversation about what is important would all be merited.

 

 

 

 

 

28th January
2009
written by Mike

Builder says fee hike comes at worst possible time

By Patrick McNamara, The Explorer

Published:

January-28-2009

The cost of a new home in Oro Valley just got higher.

Last Wednesday, Jan. 21, the Oro Valley Town Council voted 6-1 to raise residential and commercial development review fees.

Councilman Al Kunisch voted against the increase.

“I think this is the wrong time,” Kunisch said about the increase.

The councilman noted the lagging economy nationwide and the nearly stagnant home-building sector of the local economy.

Last October, for example, the town approved four single-house building permits, as opposed to 18 approved the previous October.

Other town officials, though, said the increases are necessary to cover personnel costs.

“We need to get back every penny and dime that’s spent out,” Councilwoman Paula Abbott said at last week’s meeting.

The new price structure would increase the costs for development review of a 100-unit subdivision from $19,945 to $73,310. The fees have not been changed since 2003.

In fiscal 2008, development review services generated more than $2.7 million, but the department’s total expenses topped $3.2 million.

At least one Oro Valley homebuilder, however, questions that rationale.

Why have they randomly chosen that development services should be self-sustaining when no other departments are?” asked Steve Solomon, owner of Cañada Vistas Homes.

Solomon said the town should use money generated through its 4-percent construction-materials sales tax to make up the shortfall.

Currently, construction sales taxes go into the town’s general fund.

At Solomon’s 128-lot Vistoso Town Center housing development, under construction in Rancho Vistoso, he’s already paid more than $250,000 in construction sales taxes.

“That more than covers development services for that project,” Solomon said. “It’s ludicrous to say that developers aren’t paying enough to the town to cover expenses.”

But it’s not just how the new fees and recently increased impact fees, which made it more expensive to build in Oro Valley, that have him concerned. He thinks the policies will have unintended consequences.

He thinks the ever-increasing prices will force out small builders like him and leave room only for national builders.

“I’m afraid that what it’s going to result in is that the large national builders who have deep pockets will be the only ones left building in Oro Valley,” Solomon said.

He speculates that if that happens, the town would lose its unique qualities and begin to resemble many other communities around the West, where most of the houses look the same and are built on smaller lots.

Others question the timing of the new fees when the construction industry across the country has come to a near standstill.

“I would advocate for any type of fees to be postponed until the industry gets back on its feet,” said David Godlewski of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association.

Last December, Godlewski and SAHBA sent a letter to town officials requesting they seek alternatives to the then-proposed fee increases.

The group calculated that the change would amount to a four-fold increase in development review fees and would disproportionately affect local builders.

They proposed phasing-in the new fees over two years or, like Solomon suggested, using construction sales tax money to supplement development review departments’ budgets.

The council did not discuss any of those options at last Wednesday’s meeting.

Solomon also questioned the timing of the increases, noting the difficulty of securing funding in the midst of the current banking difficulties.

“Right now, it’s nearly impossible to get any kind of funding for construction,” Solomon said. “The financing is totally dried up.”

Putting new fees on building now, Solomon argued, would only further harm a struggling industry that, until now, had been a major part of the regional economy.

“That $2 billion economic engine is completely gone,” Solomon said.

Cost of building in Oro Valley

The Oro Valley Town Council voted in September to raise water impact fees and launch additional fees for new home construction. These prices don’t reflect the costs of development review services.

Fees for single-family homes are:

• $2,699 for parks and recreation

• $694 for libraries

• $513 for police

• $389 for other government needs

• $1,908 for transportation projects

• $7,749 for water*

• Total: $13,952

*Includes two categories of water-related fees. The figures represent the cost for a single-family home with a 5/8-inch water meter. More than 80 percent of Oro Valley Water Utility customers have that size meter. The existing water fees totaled $4,283 for a single-family home.

18th December
2008
written by madge

Read Chuck Huckleberry’s opinion letter to The Explorer newspaper HERE.

There has been an ongoing dispute over control of the Arroyo Grande development. Arroyo Grande will ultimately be filled with 6000 houses. The border of Arroyo Grande go from north Oro Valley all the way past Catalina to the Pinal County line.  At issue is how much open space will be set aside in the development.

Pima County was pushing for control and OV ultimately wanted to control the development. Having future growth occur in a city makes more sense than expanding unincorporated Pima County.

From the opinion;

I apologize if any of my remarks may have been interpreted to cast blame on any entity or individual. They were not intended to do so. In the present circumstance it is nobody’s fault, but really everybody’s fault. It will be a tragedy if we all went through the difficult and trying process to develop consensus on Arroyo Grande and the end result is our complete failure to produce the open space the public was promised.

Chuck Huckelberry is the Pima County administrator.

14th December
2008
written by Arizona Kid

Oro Valley is looking to increase impact fees considerably. An impact fee levied on new construction is a tool that governments use to allow ‘growth to pay for itself’. An impact fee assessment is politically popular with current residents (voters) but always lobbied against by the growth industry.  Most regions have found a healthy balance between the two. Oro Valley’s impending increase more than triples current jurisdictions fees.  Below is a discussion about impact fees and housing affordability.  Long story short, the current residents of northern Pima County and Oro Valley are going to get a HUGE bump in their home values.

 

From AntiPlanner.com

Impact Fees Are the Wrong Tool for Any Job

posted in Regional planning |

In The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths, I suggested that impact fees might sometimes be a good way for cities to pay for the costs of growth. I have since changed my mind. Impact fees are bad under any circumstances.

I was persuaded of this when I reviewed housing affordability in urban areas across the country. I realized that the cost of existing homes closely tracks the cost of new homes. So when government regulations or fees increase the cost of new homes, the price of existing homes also rises.

 

 

Will the taxes paid on this new home pay for the services its residents consume?

Impact fees may add to municipal revenues. But they also create windfall profits for sellers of existing homes. Since existing homeowners tend to be wealthier than first-time homebuyers, these windfall profits turn out to steal from the poor and give to the rich.

Studies show that the demand for new housing is inelastic, an economic term meaning that a small change in the supply leads to a large change in the price. One way of looking at this is that people need a place to live and will pay what it takes to get one.

Let’s say a city imposes a $25,000 impact fee on the cost of new homes. The price of housing may not immediately grow by $25,000. Instead, builders may slow the rate of construction a bit because they fear some homes won’t sell at a $25,000 higher price. This contraction in supply leads to a large increase in price. Pretty soon, home buyers are paying pretty close to $25,000 more for all homes in the market.

Of course, if people have an alternative, such as buying homes in an adjacent city that hasn’t imposed an impact fee, they may do so. But as one city in a region imposes impact fees, others see the revenue possibilities and soon follow suit. Pretty soon all housing in the region is less affordable.

Impact fees are often based on claims that growth, particularly low-density development, doesn’t pay for itself. But the studies that reach this conclusion are faulty. They typically find that the cost of providing schools and other services to a new residential area is greater than the taxes those residents can be expected to pay.

If this same method were applied to existing neighborhoods, however, it would produce the same result. What they miss is that retail, commercial, and industrial areas also pay taxes, and those taxes are generally much greater than the services they consume. Why? Because all of them pay taxes for schools, yet only residential areas “consume” school services.

Even if it were true in some area that growth does not pay for itself, impact fees are the wrong solution because there is no guarantee that the buyers of new homes are newcomers or that newcomers will buy new homes. Thus, the impact fees fail to target growth.

The other problem with impact fees is that there is no guarantee that the collected fees will actually be used to provide transportation facilities for the people paying the fees. A true user fee gives both the users and the producers signals about where new facilities are needed and how much they cost. Impact fees do not provide such signals.

For example, many cities use impact fees for transportation. But there is no assurance that the people who use the facilities built with those fees will be the ones who paid the fees.

User fees — fees for actually using a good or service — are the best way to pay for things. This means water fees for water actually consumed, road tolls for actual driving on the roads, and so forth. Impact fees are not really a fee; they are a tax because the people paying the fee are not necessarily getting something in return.

If true user fees cannot be used to pay for something, the next-best choice is a property tax or some other tax that pays for things over time. Say a city needs to install new sewage facilities to handle new residences recently built in the city. There is no particular reason why those facilities will cost any more than the facilities serving existing residences, and the same sorts of taxes that existing residents pay can be used to pay for the new facilities. Paying for them over time will not inflate the cost of the new homes and thus will have no impact on the general affordability of the region.

In general, growth does pay for itself. In particular, impact fees do far more harm to a community or region than good. Cities should replace such fees with other forms of revenue or, better yet, cut the fat out of their budgets so that they can live on existing revenues.

2nd November
2008
written by JHiggins

I caught this article in Business Week and couldn’t resist a sad commentary on our country and county.  Everyone has read the Walmart stories about how they are the death of many small businesses, how they underpay their workers, how they squeeze suppliers to the point that they are forced overseas in order to maintain shelf space. The usual capitalist pig type stuff.

I personally quit shopping there a few years back because of many of the above reasons. I like to shop local and keep the money in the small businesses of our community. I’ve shopped at Walmart in the past and from time to time I’ll venture in to see how Sam’s vision is coming along. I do shop at Sam’s Club for full disclosure.

I had the opportunity to meet and talk about one of my ventures with M.  (real name withheld as I didn’t ask him if I could blog about our conversation). M is a former CEO for Sam’s Club International, Petsmart among others. He’s in the top echelon of American CEO’s. 

We met at an Applebee’s in Phoenix, which I thought was odd for a CEO type like M. He pulled out an Applebee’s credit card and mentioned that he was on their board of directors, so much for judging a book by it’s cover.  M. and I got into a deep discussion about Walmart and I shared with him my philosophical reasons for not shopping there. He had an interesting theory and since he’s been inside I think it has quite a bit of merit.

His theory on Walmart is that just like major retailing giants that dominated America in the past, Walmart will implode on it’s own success.  In the 40′s 50′s and 60′s the dominate retailer in America was Sears and Roebuck (and Montgomery Wards to a lessert extent). Sears pioneered the catalog business, built mega stores in downtown’s and eventually suburbs across the country. The Sears Tower went up as a testament to their dominance. 

Sears Tower - at the time 3rd largest building in the world

Sears Tower - at the time 3rd largest building in the world

M’s theory is the entrepreneurial spirit that made them the power house got lost in the beauracratic maze that inevitably sets in an organization (or government for that matter). The theory goes that middle management works harder to justify their existence than they do on making necessary moves for the organization.  Eventually  the sharp edge is lost and an economic hiccup can set off a series of dominoes until its too late.  Same thing happened to KMart and eventually, according to M. it will happen at Walmart.

 

 

 

 

  As an aside, M. turned me on to Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership and I highly recommend the book and its philosophy, it’s one of those life changers.

Walmart’s quest for low prices took the quality out of most of their merchandise. Walmart’s customer service is non existent and most of the employees look so overwelmed and under supported that they could care less about the principals that Sam insisted on to build his brand. In the mean time I’ll still be shopping at Target and waiting for the day that I can say I told you so. 

But hey if gas prices have your pocket book a little lite and the ARM on your mortgage just adjusted, stretching a buck could become a big part of raising your family. To each his own.

Let’s bring it back to Tucson. Walmart cracked the top ten largest employers in our region at 5626 employees. Read the post HERE.  The Oro Valley market place celebrated a shiny new Walmart in what some people describe as a bait and switch job perpetrated by the OV council. A council which have since been replaced. 

The sad commentary is that the jobs Walmart creates don’t come with quality benefits or high wages our region desperately needs. Walmart’s are part of our equation but we must bring in higher paid skilled industries to create an economic base that can afford simple things like buying a home.

Check out TheStoryOfStuff.com for an different way of looking at our consumption.

And a Jib Jab link that fellow blogger at L.O.V.E. linked to the other day that’s worth a view.

29th October
2008
written by JHiggins

Ventana Medical is a local Tucson (Oro Valley and Marana that is) success story. The company started here in our valley with automated blood testing equipment. Venatana Medical started by a UofA pathologist 20 years ago and went public in 1996. From FORBESyou can read the saga around the Roche buy out but it amounted to arriving at the right price and Ventana owners and stock holders walking away with A LOT OF MONEY.

I understand a group from TREO and Oro Valley went out to Switzerland to meet with the CEO and incoming management team. I’m sure they will love our valley and Oro Valley in particular. 

It will be curious to see how the Pima County schools compare to the European education system, I would imagine the executives will be bringing families to our region. 

From today’s AZ Daily Star HERE;

The CEO of a global drug company laid out big plans Tuesday for Oro Valley-based Ventana Medical Systems — including an increase in work force by roughly 250 employees over the next year and an expansion of research-and-development facilities.
Roche CEO Severin Schwan

Roche CEO Severin Schwan

Folks, Ventana is a shining example of how it should work;
  • UofA professor and students develop a great technology
  • A company is formed and first stage R&D funding is attained
  • Company goes to market with superior product
  • Company goes public injecting cash to grow and expand.
  • Hundreds of educated workers are hired from UofA and local employment pool
  • Dozens of local feeder small businesses benefit from Ventana’s success
  • 20 years later the company takes a $3 billion buyout and the new company stays in Tucson

I’m not asking for much just a dozen or so more Ventana’s or Hughes/Raytheon’s to diversify our economic base – preferably in a vertical industry like defense or bio medical or solar so we can finally be known for something other than tourism.

The best thing about a Raytheon or Ventana Medical is that they don’t require much support from the government entities. All they want is a pool of educated workers (like thousands of graduate from the UofA each year), a great place to live, a convenient airport (we are so so here),  and if they intend to expand or grow that the local government entities make that process as smooth as possible.

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