Wednesday, January 29, 2020

First "What The People Want" Deep Dive Brings Vistoso Golf To Forefront

Special interest marks first meeting
The Town of Oro Valley launched its first dive into learning what people want when it comes to Parks and Recreation. The deep dive occurred last Thursday at an open meeting session in town hall.  It was a first step in building the 2020 Parks and Recreation Master Plan. There were about a hundred people attending. We will report more about this meeting in a subsequent posting.

One of the things that we were looking for were the special interest groups at the meeting. This time it was the "Perserve Vistoso" people. They represent the residents of the Golf Course at Vistoso.

Golf Club at Vistoso residents want open space
The Golf Club at Vistoso closed in 2018. It closed because Oro Valley is overcapacity in golf facilities. Since that time, the land has been sitting, waiting for something to happen. It was a course built by Conley Wolfswinkel, the developer of  much of the Rancho Vistoso master planned community." It was owned by his sons. The Golf Club at Vistoso opened in 1995 and was designed by [golf pro] Tom Weiskopf." (source) The course simply could not remain competitive in what is a very competitive market.

Preserve Vistoso's concern is possible rezoning that may take place in the defunct Vistoso golf course; rezoning that would allow for development.
They are not advocating that the town should purchase the land or possibly operate a golf course.

One speaker at the meeting made their intent clear:

"I hope this study will underscore that Rancho Vistoso needs a large recreational area where we can enjoy the outdoors without having to dodge traffic. The former Vistoso Golf course could become an asset for our outdoor loving community. It has beautiful mountain views." (Source: Preserve Vistoso email)

Romspen wants to make money
The thing that stands in their way is that the property is now owned by an investment fund,
Romspen Mortgage Investment Fund ("Romspen"). Romspen purchased the property in 2014.  As of the summer of 2018, when the course closed, they had invested $9.5 million in it. (source)

Romspen needs to salvage a bad investment. They can do this by converting the land use from golf to residential. According to the Preserve Vistoso web site, Romspen is "... pursuing rezoning a substantial portion of the property for residential development.... to rezone 109 acres of the 208 acre property from recreational to a combination of low, medium, and medium-high density residences."

This step alone has the potential to put millions in profit in Romspen's pocket.

Romspen will have to "run the gantlet" to make land use change happen
There is more than "land rezoning" required. This will require a General Plan Amendment. That will required a 5 person council majority to approve the amendment. Then, it will required a 4 person council rezoning approval. Prior to all this, there will have to be a number of public meetings.

It's a long road and probably for Romspen, a road that will not be approved by this council. But, there will be future councils. Getting the plan designated as preserve land in the 2020 Parks and Recreation Master Plan will be an added barrier for future councils to overlook.