PRESERVE VISTOSO FACT SHEET
Preserve Vistoso is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, with nearly 1,900 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 $3 billion Canadian non-bank mortgage lender, owns the property and rejected a fair market value cash offer from The Conservation Fund (TCF) in 2020.
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. The Vistoso Golf Property was purchased at an auction in 2015 by Romspen from IRI Golf Group.
Romspen’s financial filing at the time of purchase said that it was preparing the property for future sale and the potential creation of development tracts of land 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 urban infill of 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, following a visit to the property, Mike Ford, from The Conservation Fund (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 had combined pledges of $1.5 million 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.
When Romspen rejected a fair market appraised cash offer for the property in 2020 from TCF, the company local lawyer, Pat Lopez, said that there were “erroneous errors on the appraisal” TCF said this was factually incorrect and painted a distorted picture of the proceedings.
ORO VALLEY TOWN COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY SUPPORTS CONTINUED NEGOTIATIONS
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 July 2021, Romspen ordered a new appraisal of the property. This third appraisal report should be available in August.
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 PROPOSAL
Some 202-acres of the property currently zoned recreational would be purchased by TCF and the property placed in a conservation easement to protect it as open space in perpetuity.
In a separate agreement, the six acres where the former Vistoso club house and parking lot are located is currently zoned high density residential and could be sold to a private developer. The six-acre sale would be contingent on the concurrent sale of the 202 acres.
Romspen’s acceptance of the current offer would end the community nightmare over the uncertainty of this beautiful desert property and preserve 202 acres for recreational use in perpetuity for the community.
UPDATE ON NEGOTIATIONS
In May 2021, Romspen ordered a third appraisal of the property to establish fair market value. It should be public in August.
Preserve Vistoso believes that Romspen should accept TCF’s offer of fair market value for the property. Our community is totally committed to protect this desert property.
WHY PRESERVE THE 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 additional neighborhoods within walking distance.
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 would have the nature preserve available as a desert environment learning laboratory.
October 12, 2021
For more information:
Patricia Sturmon, 520 591-2583
Gayle Mateer, 908 938-8227
AGREEMENT COULD CONVERT FORMER VISTOSO GOLF COURSE TO A NATURE PRESERVE
Oro Valley, AZ ,Oct 12, 2021—Preserve Vistoso announced today that The Conservation Fund (TCF) will purchase 202 acres of the former Vistoso Golf Course. TCF will protect the property with a conservation easement and donate it to the Town of Oro Valley as a nature preserve and community trail. TCF is a nationally recognized top conservation fund creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, redefining conservation to emphasize its essential role in the country’s future prosperity.
The property should close 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.
“Our community’s goal to preserve the property is finally closer to becoming a reality,” said Gayle Mateer, president of Preserve Vistoso, a 1,900-member community 501(c)(3) nonprofit. “After the Vistoso Golf Course closed in 2018, we formed Preserve Vistoso so the community would have a voice in saving the property as a nature preserve and community trail. Now as a community we need to secure the funds to complete the purchase to save some of the last remaining large parcels of Sonoran desert in Oro Valley as open space.”
Tom Weiskopf designed and opened the Vistoso Golf Course in 1995 with more than 70 percent of the property retained as Sonoran desert habitat. It has spectacular mountain scenery, abundant wildlife, more than six miles of paved trails, three restrooms and trail underpasses for major roads. The area was once home to a Native American village called Sleeping Snake, as evidenced by the petroglyphs that can be found on the property.
Romspen, a $3.2 billion (CAD) Canadian non-bank 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 when the Romspen closed the course in June 2018.
Romspen filed a General Plan Amendment with Oro Valley in March 2020 to rezone the property from recreational to medium and high density residential. One Romspen proposal called for a senior living facility, another proposal suggested hundreds of homes on 87 acres. The Town of Oro Valley asked for community comments and scheduled Zoom rezoning meetings to gather community input. Community members overwhelmingly voiced opposition to Romspen’s plans with more than 1,200 email comments and hundreds participating in the Zoom meetings.
After Preserve Vistoso member Rosa Dailey invited TCF’s Mike Ford to visit the property in June 2020, TCF offered to negotiate the purchase from Romspen at appraised Fair Market Value. In September 2020, Romspen rejected TCF’s offer to purchase the property. Romspen eventually withdrew its rezoning proposal.
“Our community would not give up,” Mateer said. “Our volunteers persistently raised the issue of preserving the property with Town Council members and Town management. Preserve Vistoso membership grew as more community members supported our efforts to preserve the property for community use.”
In November 2020, the Oro Valley Town Council voted unanimously to negotiate the sale of Vistoso property from Romspen. In April 2021, TCF announced it was involved again in negotiating the sale of the property.
“TCF has been our valued and trusted partner,” Mateer said. “We also applaud the involvement of the Oro Valley Town Council, Town Attorney and Town Management in negotiations for the purchase,” Mateer said. “Their support and direction were critical to our success.”
In 2020, an Oro Valley parks survey indicated that the top priorities of the community were more open space and trails. The study also indicated a need for Town recreational areas in northern Oro Valley. The Vistoso property will add open space and trails.
There are 17 neighborhoods on the Vistoso property with more than 13 additional neighborhoods within a 10-minute walk of the area, with about 6,000 residents. The property is home to desert wildlife and volunteers have identified 13 different kinds of mammals, 33 species of birds, and at least eight types of reptiles.
“Oro Valley is noted as one of the best places to live to raise a family or enjoy retirement,” Mateer said. “The Vistoso property will offer recreational opportunities to reinforce Oro Valley’s reputation as a place for residents who like to enjoy outdoor life. It also will provide educational opportunities for our children. Our community is committed to support the future of this property.”
More information on supporting this conservation effort is available at preservevistoso.org.