Background

This page provides the background behind efforts by Preserve Vistoso to establish the former Vistoso golf property as a nature preserve and community trail.

Preserve Vistoso Background

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PRESERVE VISTOSO FACT SHEET

Preserve Vistoso (preservevistoso.org) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, with 1,860 members.  It was founded in February 2019 to ensure the preservation of the Vistoso golf property, a 202-acre parcel of land zoned recreational and a six acre parcel zoned high-density residential in northern Oro Valley.  Romspen, a non-bank mortgage lender, owns the property.  In October 2021, Romspen signed an agreement for The Conservation Fund (TCF) to acquire the property.  

The property transaction should be final by year-end, contingent on the community raising $1.8 million for TCF to complete the purchase. Last year, community members had a successful pledge drive, but TCF’s offer to purchase the property was rejected. Now that an agreement was reached, there will be another opportunity for the community to raise the funds.  

Once the purchase transaction closes, TCF will protect the Sonoran desert property with a conservation easement.  It is expected that TCF will donate it to the Town of Oro Valley.  TCF and Oro Valley Mayor Joe Winfield, Vice Mayor Melanie Barrett, Oro Valley Town Council members and Town management supported our community and made this acquisition possible. 

History of the Vistoso Property

  • Tom Weiskopf designed and opened the Vistoso Golf Course in 1995 with more than 70 percent of the property remaining desert habitat.  Romspen, a non-bank mortgage lender, acquired the property in 2015 after IRI Golf Group defaulted on its mortgage.  

  • Romspen indicated in its 2015 annual report that it was preparing the property for future sale and the potential creation of development tracts within the property Attempts to sell the property as a golf course ended and the course closed in June 2018.  

Romspen files for Zoning Changes 

  • In March 2020, Romspen filed a General Plan Amendment with Oro Valley to rezone the property to sell to developers.   One Romspen proposal called for a senior living facility, another proposal suggested hundreds of homes on 87 of the 208 acres.

  • The Town of Oro Valley asked for community comments and scheduled Zoom rezoning meetings.  Community members overwhelmingly voiced opposition to Romspen’s plans with more than 1,200 email comments and hundreds participating in the Zoom meetings.

TCF Offers to Buy Property

  • In June 2020, Rosa Dailey, founding member of Preserve Vistoso, invited Mike Ford from The Conservation Fund (TCF) to visit the property.  TCF submitted a Letter of Intent to Romspen for the purchase of the property to preserve it with a Conservation Easement. TCF, a highly regarded national nonprofit organization, helps make community conservation projects a reality.

  • By July 2020, Preserve Vistoso members and TCF conducted a pledge drive to purchase the property and place it in a conservation easement.

  • In September 2020, Romspen rejected TCF’s offer of the appraised fair market value for the 208-acre Vistoso property.  

Oro Valley Town Council Unanimously Supports Continued Negotiation

  • In November 2020, the Oro Valley Town Council unanimously voted to negotiate the sale of the Vistoso property from Romspen.  

  • In April 2021, Mike Ford from TCF announced that it again was involved in negotiating for the purchase of the Vistoso property.  

  • In May 2021, Romspen ordered a new appraisal of the property.  

  • In July 2021, the Oro Valley Town Attorney said that if the appraisal price for the 202 acres zoned recreational is less than Romspen’s required price, the Town Council Members agreed unanimously to continue further negotiations in an attempt to resolve outstanding disputes with Romspen.

Details of Current Agreement 

  • Some 202-acres of the property currently zoned recreational will be purchased by TCF and the property placed in a conservation easement to protect it as open space in perpetuity.   It is expected that TCF will donate to the Town of Oro Valley.

  • The property should close by year end once the community raises $1.8 million for TCF to complete the purchase.

  • Last year, community members initiated a successful pledge drive, but TCF’s offer to purchase the property last year was rejected by Romspen. 

Why Preserve the Vistoso Property  

  • The Vistoso property provides an opportunity to save a sizable portion of the Sonoran desert as a recreational area.  It has spectacular mountain scenery, petroglyphs, more than six miles of paved trails, three restrooms and trail underpasses for major roads.

  • There are 17 Neighborhoods next to the property and 13 neighborhoods in walking distance, totaling some 6,000 residents.

  • The area was once home to Native Americans in a village called Sleeping Snake. The developer of the CenterPointe Vistoso found Native American pottery, which is exhibited in the community’s l area.  

  • School children will have the nature preserve available as a desert environment learning laboratory. 

Patricia Sturmon 520 591-2583 
Board Member, Preserve Vistoso