Executives at HSL Properties, the company behind a controversial new apartment complex in Oro Valley, gave about $7,000 in the past two years to help re-elect Mayor Satish Hiremath.
Encantada at Steam Pump Ranch — a $34 million HSL project — and other apartment developments are a hot topic in the mayor and council races this year. The question of allowing apartment complexes has come up in several candidate debates.
Campaign finance reports covering January 2013 through May 2014 show Humberto Lopez, president and co-founder of HSL, gave $5,000 to Hiremath’s campaign in May. He and four other HSL executives made additional donations ranging from $100 to $870 last year.
The nearly $7,000 from HSL amounts to more than half of Hiremath’s campaign contributions since the reporting cycle started in January 2013.
By the end of this month, HSL is expected to finish building 288 luxury apartments on a 13-acre site near Steam Pump Ranch. Residents started moving in last month.
Omar Mireles, HSL vice president, said the economic and political climates were right to approach the town about the project.
HSL worked with the Town Council and staff on the project for two years. The town Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6-1 to approve the project.
Mireles said HSL executives liked the way Hiremath interacted with the business community and thought he would give their proposals a fair look, which he did.
Mireles said he is happy with the way the town is growing and how town leaders are managing growth.
Hiremath said the Encantada project already was in the works before Hiremath decided to run for a second term, so the campaign donations didn’t influence his decision making.
He said he “takes full responsibility for this issue” of multifamily housing getting built all at once. He said he prefers a short spurt with lots of construction to the alternative of letting projects drag out over years.
Oro Valley needs a variety of housing options as outlined in the town general plan, including more affordable housing, Hiremath said.
Hiremath’s opponent, Patrick Straney, agrees, adding a variety of housing types encourages economic development.
By the June 30 campaign finance reporting deadline, Straney was self-funding his grass-roots campaign.
And he isn’t accepting any endorsements, he said. “I do not want to have any appearance of loss of objectivity,” he said, “in other words, political favors.”