NW Corner Development UPDATE

 NW Corner of Naranja and La Canada Drives

Offices and Drive-Thru Coffee Shop
OPINION by Todd Fedoruk

A public meeting was held in December 12, at 6PM to discuss the proposed site design for the NW intersection of La Canada Dr. and Naranja Dr.

This meeting was held at the Oro Valley Council Chambers, 11000 N. La Canada Drive, and on line via ZOOM.  Six homeowners were in attendance, and a dozen more attended via ZOOM.

A brief history of the NW Corner site was presented by the Town Planner, followed by a presentation by the developer’s representative.

Residential Impact
The site plan has not changed significantly from the plan presented in 2019. The bone of contention with homeowners is still (1) the request for a zoning variance to allow a drive-thru for a coffee shop; (2) forego the 250-ft buffer zone requirement between a drive-thru and residential properties; and (3) the expected increase in traffic congestion with its associated safety risks, to the already congested La Canada/ Naranja intersection.

While the site is zoned as commercial, and a restaurant is a commercial enterprise, a drive- thru requires a zoning exemption AND the 250-ft buffer zone.
Proposed Variance:
Re-zone the lot to allow a restaurant/coffee shop to have a drive-thru window. But that still leaves the issue about the zoning requirement for the buffer zone.

The city planner and developer have “creatively” moved the center of the 250-ft footprint buffer zone around the proposed drive-thru as far SE as possible, removing two of the three impacted residential neighborhoods; leaving only the houses on the NE corner of the intersection, negatively impacted.
Proposed Variance:
The Developer simply wishes to forego the 250-ft buffer zone and trust the Town to regulate and enforce noise and odor ordnances when they occur.

Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Concerns
The Town’s traffic engineer claimed a traffic study was performed showing the intersection can easily accommodate the additional vehicle flow into and out of the drive-thru.

This statement was met with universal skepticism. Anyone trying to enter or leave our community via Naranja Drive, 0.2-miles from the intersection, during peak traffic times, has encountered congestion and long wait times. The additional multiple comings and goings from the NW Corner drive-thru will only add to that congestion.
Additionally, the NW Corner is an intersection for the popular bike/pedestrian pathway along La Canada and Naranja Drives. Pathways promoted by the mayor and council as safe and healthy ways to exercise and enjoy the outdoors.

Anyone who has walked or cycled near a drive-thru has encounter near-hits from inattentive drivers in a hurry to get back onto the road. This issue was raised at the meeting.
Proposed Solution:
The traffic engineer and developer trust that the coffee shop patrons will “find the best way to merge back into the traffic flow, without causing unnecessary congestion.
As for “interactions” (aka collisions) between vehicles and pedestrians, those unfortunate events do occasionally happen. According to the Developer, “it’s an unfortunate part of life”. That’s why there are stop signs and traffic laws; unfortunately, not everyone obeys them.

Is a Drive-thru Coffee Shop Risk Worthy?
This property is zoned as commercial, no one disputes that fact. However, this property is not zoned for a drive-thru; that requires a vote of the Town Council.
At the 2019 public meeting, the developer representative admitted that without the drive-thru variance, the entire project is not feasible, and is pushing for the zoning variances.

The corner property has always had this drive-thru restriction; and I see no beneficial reason to give the developer the variance; unnecessarily risking the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

You are invited to view an informational video regarding the property owner’s proposed site design for a medical office and drive-thru development located at the northwest corner of the Naranja Dr. and La Canada Dr. intersection (case number 2102733/2101748). 

Next Steps:
The Town Council will decide at the meeting on Tuesday. January 10, 2023, whether the developer will be granted the zoning variances. Public comments FOR and AGAINST the zoning variances will be determine the future development of this corner, and its benefit or harm to our community. Your opinions matter, speak to the Town Mayor and Council members.

For more information. USE THIS LINK..

Please contact Senior Planner Hannah Oden at (520) 229-4814 or hoden@orovalleyaz.gov