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Oro Valley Wants Code Change to Lure Biotech

By Patrick McNamara for Inside Tucson Business

Photo Credit: Robert Alcarez / Inside Tucson Business

With an eye toward expanding its cluster of medical-research firms, Oro Valley officials have begun discussions about ways to streamline the development process to attract more biotech companies.

“We’re trying to create our own success and our own destiny,” said Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath.

The crux of the plan requires the council to amend the town’s zoning code to create an alternative process for development submittal, review and approval for businesses primarily along Innovation Park Drive. It’s an area that’s already home to Roche Group’s Ventana Medical Systems and Sanofi, two of the world’s largest medical-research companies.

Currently in Oro Valley, most development projects require at least two neighborhood meetings in addition to public hearings and meetings with town boards and the town council to get approval.

Hiremath said the new streamlined system would gather public input through neighborhood meetings at the beginning of the process. The proposal also could create a process allowing for more administrative approvals instead of having to get council approvals.

Councilman Mike Zinkin said certain stipulations should be included such as excluding development plans that would require zoning changes or conditional use permits. Zinkin also suggested that any qualifying development proposal be no closer than 600 feet from residences.

Going further than Hiremath, Zinkin said the new process could take council or commission meetings entirely out of the equation. He said that because the area already has been zoned for campus park industrial and other business uses, the streamlining would not have an adverse impact on residents.

“Oro Valley does possess the closest thing we have to a cluster,” said David Welsh, executive vice president with Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities. “I think this is an important step for them.”

Welsh previously worked as Oro Valley’s economic development administrator. He said the possibility of saving development time could help attract more companies, particularly start-up firms. The operations of both Roche’s Ventana Medical and Sanofi began as start-ups in Oro Valley, Welsh noted.

Town officials hope this latest effort to attract more high-tech, high-wage employers, coupled with arguably one of the region’s better education systems, pays off.

Read more at InsideTucsonBusiness

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