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Oro Valley may take on short-term rental properties; Pima County to cancel elections

The Tucson agenda

Oro Valley may take on short-term rental properties; Pima County to cancel elections

A loosened state law gives towns & cities the power to take on Airbnb and Vrbo-linked properties

  • Oro Valley may be the first jurisdiction in the Tucson area to take up some regulations on short-term rentals like those secured on Airbnb.
    Oro Valley may be the first jurisdiction in the Tucson area to take up some regulations on short-term rentals like those secured on Airbnb.

Oro Valley may be the first community in Arizona to consider changes to it's "vacation/short-term" rental rules after the Arizona Legislature loosened restrictions that had barred local governments from doing so.

That's right. Oro Valley. 

During a meeting this week, the Town Council will take a look at the option to maybe, possibly look into the idea of establishing a set of rules that could carry a punishment of $3,500 or suspension of a license to operate such a business.

Hmmm. This is interesting. 

The Legislature has caught grief from even voters in deep red districts about problems associated with short-term rentals offered by services like Airbnb. The state had previously drawn only the narrowest of restrictions on these homes turned businesses. Basically, it forbade rentals to sex offenders and... well, for any other sort of adult behavior.

So long as nothing sexual was going on, the state stood on the side of property owners to do what they wanted with their homes.

These units are contributing to the shortage of housing stock and therefor affordability, though how much in Tucson is hard to determine.  

Also, it's Oro freaking Valley wading into the discussion first. OV is awful darned right wing to be leading the way into regulations.

State law still forbids local governments from preventing homeowners turning their home into a short-term rentals. 

However, the new rules allow for licensing and policing these properties to make sure they comply with noise, maintenance and zoning rules, so long as those rules are not more strictly enforced on these properties. 

Being a law passed by Arizona's Legislature, there is of course a "huh?" factor involved. Short-term rentals can't be prohibited but the rentals are to follow zoning. Zoning is entirely about prohibition of use. So I'm not exactly sure how that will work out but that's the compromise reached. I am confident lawmakers did not think it through.

The idea is a suggestion and in no way yet a formal policy or ordinance. It's just something the staff will bounce off the Council during the Wednesday meeting.

The council will also take up changes to a development plan first approved in 1985, near North 1st Avenue and East Naranja Drive.

As part of a 1994 annexation deal, the town agreed to abide by the conditions approved by the county Board of Supervisors. It's kind of a crazy plan because the neighbors are not completely thrilled with the project but the town's hands are tied.

So long as the project conforms to the county's zoning laws as they were 37 years ago, the project is what is called a "permitted use." That means it has "hard zoning" and the town lacks discretion.

Still, the developer threw in a recreational trail through the project and town staff are recommending approval with that trail sweetening the pot.

Elections canceled for lack of candidates

So long as I'm writing about weirdness, Pima County supervisors will vote during their meeting on Tuesday to cancel a host of elections – yes, cancel.

If elections are uncontested, supervisors can cancel them and just declare the qualified candidates to have won their races. If there aren't enough contestants to fill out the seats, the "extra" positions are deemed vacant.

Five water improvement districts and 18 fire districts failed to muster enough candidates to seek positions on the board to force an election. In fact, the Arivaca, Hidden Valley, Sonoita-Elgin, Mount Lemmon, Tanque Verde and Why fire district boards generated no candidates at all.

Under state law, water districts can have be suspended without a quorum and the supes can appoint replacements for fire district boards if there is no quorum. If there is a quorum still seated on the special district board, the appointed members can fill a vacancy.

Also set for cancellation is the election for the two open seats on the Tanque Verde Unified School District Governing Board. With only two candidates qualified for the ballot, after one dropped out last month, there isn't much point in going through the motions.

The supervisors will also vote on agreeing to sell Arizona Industrial Authority Bonds to finance a $14 million apartment complex to help low-to-moderate income renters older than 55.

The 70-unit complex would be built at 1346 N. Stone Ave., and apparently cost $200,000 per single-bedroom, single-bathroom apartment.

That's about $300 to $400 per square foot. That's what four-bedroom homes in the Sam Hughes Neighborhood are going for.

By the way, these boards administer funds collected through "special taxing districts," so they have a job to do. People looking to get a  taste of political experience might want to check out one of those boards.

Growth is back

A couple Southwest Side rezonings are also on the agenda as growth and the associated concerns seem poised to return to the forefront of county politics.

One near West Valencia Road and South Cardinal Avenue would allow for 273 lots on 61 acres. Current zoning allows for just 73 units.

The project conforms to the general plan, which is a land-use guide designating the types of projects the county would like to see built. However, rezonings are specific to the project, rather than the best use of the land.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-3 to deny the rezoning, which often spells a project's doom without revisions.

Neighbors are split on the project, as some told the commission the project would lead to more flooding and others thought it would add needed infrastructure to the area.

Another project faces different problems as the Wong Family Trust seeks to a rezoning on South Camino De La Tierra and West Valencia Road.

The proposed rezoning would turn a 30-lot subdivision into a 143-lot high-density project.

The county has identified this part of town as ripe for high-density growth and the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend approval of the project. The county staff is satisfied it's concerns have been addressed.

However, neighbors are making the wheel squeak. Of the 30 plus comments received, 27 opposed the project and 2 supported it.

The area already has multiple apartment complexes (which Tucson needs) but this project would add to the troubles that can be created by high-growth. Neighbors are most concerned about traffic, drainage and the loss of desert habitat.

Elections and personnel

The Elections Department will give an after-action report on the primary election's use of voting centers instead of precinct voting, which the county had previously used. 

Under the new system, any voter can stop into any voting center and ask for a ballot, which will be printed up based on their address. 

In a memo to the Board of Supervisors, County Administrator Jan Lesher said the primary proceeded like a Sonoran chub – just swimmingly.

A few problems cropped up but they were quickly fixed, Lesher told the board in the memo.

On a related elections note, Lesher is recommending that the supervisors approve the appointment of Toni Hellon to the Election Integrity Commission. She would replace longtime Republican member Benny White.

The county is also looking to beef up vacation time for its work force.

The policy put forward by senior county administration would add five days off, across-the-board. New hires would get 17 days, instead of 12 and those with 15 years on the job would get 26 days rather than the 21 days they now get.

Yeah, when it comes to labor, this is still a workers' market. 

Supervisor Steve Christy is asking for an update to the county's personnel policy. Specifically, he wants to know whether unvaccinated county workers will face the same prospects for promotion.

Note to Attorney General Mark Brnovich: This is how you finesse an issue. Rather than suing the city of Tucson and calling bonuses to some workers retaliation against others, ask a legit question like "will vaccination status be held against workers on future advancement.

Maybe you think so. Maybe you don't. It's a legit question. 

I tend to think if the unvaccinated are still working for the county, they followed county policy and proved they deserved a religious or medical exemption from the county's vaccination mandate.

If they conformed to policy, they did their job. 

On the other hand, allow me a massive eye roll for this persistent gripe that the unvaccinated are the real victims of the million-death pandemic that struck the U.S., and the world.

People were mean to them, as they searched out proof of massive conspiracies and nefarious agendas.

Cry me a riparian watershed.

The new strategic plan is here!

Meanwhile, the wait is over up in Marana. 

The Town Council will finally and "officially" vote on (trumpets, please) Marana Strategic Plan V.

The plan focuses on headings like "Cherished Heritage," "Vibrant Community," "Thriving Commerce," "Healthy Lifestyles," and "Proactive Public Services."

Stab the fatted calf. Throw a glass on the fire. The town staff has been seeking public input and giving drafts a nick here and a tuck there to come up with the final product.

I know the staff works hard on this and really puts effort into the document, which will guide town tactics until Plan VI comes around, but it does seem like local governments spend an inordinate amount of time coming up with plans, only to present a subsequent plan that fails to explain what happened to the previous plan. They were too busy coming up with another plan.

A cause in the plan-i-fication of local governments are mandates out of Washington, D.C., to come up with them for the purposes of winning grant money.

Down in Santa Cruz County, the Board of Supervisors will be voting on plan to tap into money set aside as part of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

The basic idea is to train the local work force to meet the needs of local business and industry.

In that, the county describes the effort as "customer-driven," with the customer being business seeking to hire.

The plan is needed to make sure that the the county knows how it would best use the money to best serve that customer. The federal law was passed by a Republican Congress in 1998 and signed by President Bill Clinton. So it's one of those business-oriented, bang-for-the-buck initiatives the two sides liked to agree on back in the day.

So the county has to come up with a four-year plan to submit the ARIZONA@WORK program, which administers the money in the state.

In other action, Santa Cruz supervisors will vote on a final letter to be sent to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

The city of Nogales desperately wants out of running its wastewater treatment facility because it is hooked into the system serving Nogales, Son.

Nogales, Ariz., (pop. 25,000) is currently running a wastewater operation serving a more than 400,000 people.  That's a little beyond its capacity. The Arizona city took over operations decades ago when the population on the other side of the border stood at a few thousand.

The Nogales Wastewater Improvement Act would basically federalize the system under the International Boundary Water Commission. It would be the job of the U.S. and Mexican national governments to operate the system, freeing up Nogales and Santa Cruz County resources for other things.

It's a bit of an "as-the-screw-turns" agenda item, but the underlying issue is interesting.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 25 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party.

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