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 Background

Preserve Vistoso is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, with over 1,800 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, owned the property.  Community support enabled The Conservation Fund (TCF) and the Town of Oro Valley to complete the purchase of the property on February 16, 2022.  

 Preserve Vistoso raised $1.8 million for TCF to purchase 202 acres of property as a nature preserve.  TCF placed the property in a Conservation Easement to protect it in perpetuity. Mike Ford from TCF and Oro Valley Mayor Joe Winfield, Vice Mayor Melanie Barrett, Oro Valley Town Council members and the Town Attorney and Town Management supported our community and helped make this acquisition possible.  TCF donated the property to the Town of Oro Valley on July 8, 2022, with a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 15.  As part of the agreement, Tucson developer Ross Rulney purchased the 6.3 acre parcel formerly used for clubhouse operations.  The 6.3 acres is zoned high-density residential.  Rulney said that it will be used for future multi-family residential development.

 History of the Vistoso Property

  • Tom Weiskopf designed the Vistoso Golf Course which opened 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 the Golf Course operator, IRI Golf Group, defaulted on its mortgage.   Attempts to sell the property as a golf course ended and the course closed in June 2018.  Romspen announced it plans to rezone more than half the property to sell to developers.

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, a community leader invited Mike Ford from 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 conducted a pledge drive for TCF to purchase the property, but Romspen in September rejected TCF’s offer of 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

  • In October 2021, TCF signed a contract with Romspen to purchase 202 acres of the property from Romspen Vistoso LLC (Romspen). Preserve Vistoso members raised $1.8 million within weeks of the agreement for TCF to purchase the property.  Tucson developer Ross Rulney agreed to purchase a 6.3 acre former area parcel near the former clubhouse.  

  • The Town of Oro Valley agreed to facilitate the agreement.

  • In February 2022, TCF closed on 202 acres of the Vistoso property and The Town of Oro Valley agreed to an additional financial payment to settle disputes with Romspen.   

  • TCF donated the property to the Town of Oro Valley on July 8, 2022.

  • The Town conducted a naming contest with the property now called Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve. 

 
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 pool area.  

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