Dec. 1, 2004 - A five-star resort may be built in Dove Mountain in the Tortolita Foothills at some point in the future, though the developer said that right now, plans are still "up in the air."

David Mehl, the president of Cottonwood Properties, the developer of the upscale community, said he still has plans to build an exclusive resort in the Tucson region and that Dove Mountain may provide the setting for that resort. He declined to go into the specifics on the status of the development, because the resort is still in the early stages of negotiation.

Mehl originally planned to pursue the development in a partnership with Hyatt Hotels, however the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and its effect on tourism put a damper on that approach. That plan has now been put on the back burner, Mehl said.

The shifting market in tourism led Mehl to take a different approach by planning a smaller, more exclusive resort.

Marana Community and Development Director Dick Gear said Cottonwood Properties is negotiating with parties that may be interested in partnering in the resort. He declined to comment specifically on the status of those negotiations, saying only that he's confident that some negotiations will be successful.

Gear said the improvements at the Marana Regional Airport would create a substantial lure for people interested in staying at the resort. The airport would provide a point of transportation for private pilots or commuter and corporate jets.

Marana entered into a deal with Mehl in 2000 in which Cottonwood Properties would underwrite the town's purchase of 2,400 acres of state land to create the Tortolita Preserve just south of Dove Mountain.

The preserve acreage was needed by Cottonwood to offset development of the proposed resort property in order to receive U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approval.

The company worked with Fish and Wildlife to complete the Dove Mountain project even though it was in prime habitat for the endangered pygmy owl.

The town expected income from the construction of the resort and eventually bed taxes to pay for improvements to the Tortolita Preserve, trail construction and annual maintenance costs.

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