Home to roost: Backyard farming may germinate in Oro Valley

OK, here’s something journalists covering local politics in a city of 1 million people don’t see every day.

During a meeting Wednesday, the Oro Valley Town Council will discuss a plan to allow residents raise small animals on small lots and engage in animal husbandry.

This means your Oro Valley neighbor, dear reader, could be raising chickens, rabbits and pot belly pigs to make for good eating. The move is to accommodate a trend called “backyard farming.”

The current law in Oro Valley allows raising rabbits (and the like) for food purposes only on lots bigger than 144,000 square feet. The plan is to drop that down to small lots of 20,000 feet, with restrictions.

That’s basically 2.2-acre lots. So it’s not like beekeeping and bunny farming will be allowed in small-lot subdivisions. Here’s an interesting fact. Tucson right now allows this activity on lots as small as 1,000 square feet. I didn’t know Tucson had lots that size.

Homeowners associations’ codes, covenants and restrictions would still apply and the town’s rules would only affect properties that are not governed by these rules in private contracts.

A whole bunch of Oro Valley would still qualify for this rule change, including most of the southern parts of town along North Oracle Road.

I’m going to say right now to people born and raised in an urban environment that the rooster thing is real. When I lived in Globe, my trailer sat on a bluff over an arroyo where a family had a farm a few hundred yards away. Every morning, their rooster woke me up at sunrise with a cock-a-doodle-doo. I found it oddly disturbing and unsettling.

The Oro Valley town staff is preparing for such potential “nuisances” by incorporating certain controls into the new ordinance. 

Basically, the town staff wants feedback from the council before taking the proposal to the Planning and Zoning Commission for approval prior to a Town Council vote on the final code amendments.

This is probably one of those issues where city kids are going to be like, “Huh?” and country kids are going to respond with “D’uh!”

This reminds me some of how Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro decided rabbits were an answer to his country’s hunger problems and started handing them out to families (dialing back his government’s kleptocracy apparently wasn’t an option). Most chose just to keep them as pets and some put bows on them. There are now just more pet rabbits in Venezuela and hunger persists.

The council will also look at a new plan to allow mobile food courts.

Basically, vendors park a few food trucks (or trailers) together in a cluster and put out some picnic tables. Bang, it’s a food court.

They’ve gained popularity and Tucson is also looking at an ordinance to allow these pop-up businesses in the city limits.

Under the Oro Valley plan, mobile food courts would be allowed in commercial zoning and only if the vendors get a “conditional use permit.” CUP’s give a property owner the right to do things that don’t exactly conform to zoning with a host of restrictions on the activity.

A homeowner can get permission to run a business out of their house not allowed by zoning if they agree to jump through a number of hoops.

In the case of food courts, the town would require certain health and safety requirements be met. Also, the permit would force vendors to follow certain design standards and minimize the effects on the surrounding area.

The staff wants the council’s input on issues, like how does one define a mobile food court?

Downtown Nogales

The Nogales City Council will get a look at a plan in the works for downtown revitalization, which focuses on a lot of familiar sounding themes like infill development, incentive packages for private developers and infrastructure improvement.

The plan is still in draft form and, like Oro Valley, the staff just wants council input before moving forward.

The idea is to spruce up downtown and turn it into a destination. New sidewalks, a downtown gateway, facade renovations and more density in the urban core are all policies the redevelopment plan would suggest pursuing.

Of course, none of that matters without funding.

Nogales is looking at money from the coronavirus-era American Rescue Plan as one way to pay for projects. Another source would be Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is money doled out in blocks to state and local governments for projects specific to state and local needs. 

The council will also make a final vote on giving the city’s Parks and Recreation Department director more authority and flexibility in managing the municipal cemetery.

The contract between the city and the International Association of Fire Fighters local is up for renewal and council members will vote on whether to renew the existing deal.

Rio a No-Go

The October meeting of the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities Board of Directors has been canceled, or postponed, depending on the definition.

Gov. Katie Hobbs recently removed four members from the board and put her own people in place. This was her right under the state law that put Rio Nuevo under state control. Two of the members Hobbs dismissed were reappointed by the Legislature to fill two vacant seats.

At some point in November, the new board will hold its first meeting, just as soon as schedules can be “deconflicted.”

I can confirm the new board members aren’t the easiest people to contact.