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The Golf Club at Vistoso has seen better days.

A Canadian non-bank mortgage company is holding onto defunct Rancho Vistoso Golf Course after declining an offer to purchase the property by a national environmental nonprofit organization with plans to repurpose the area for recreational use. 

Romspen Vistoso LLC has also suspended its 2020 application to amend the Vistoso Golf General Plan Land Use Designation to rezone the area for residential housing and a senior care facility until 2021. 

The Rancho Vistoso Golf Course closed in 2018 and the neglected greens have been a source of concern for nearby homeowners. Preserve Vistoso Board member Patricia Sturmon said her group is disappointed by the outcome, but they will continue to oppose any future residential building on the golf course.

“Our community is 100 percent in favor of keeping the entire golf course property labeled as recreation,” Sturmon said. “We will not agree to any general plan amendment. Period.”

Sturmon said her group has sent more than 1,200 pages of comments and concerns regarding Romspen’s future plans to Ask Oro Valley, which are received by Town Manager Mary Jacobs. 

Romspen attorney Pat Lopez said his client has shied away from both potential endeavors at this time due to not being able to adhere to the usual processes involved during the ongoing pandemic.  

“Everyone knows this has been a crazy year. Romspen hasn’t had a chance to meet with people face to face, but that’s only part of it,” Lopez said. “A bigger part of it was (Romspen) entered into a deal with the Conservation Fund and they wanted to give that an opportunity.” 

Lopez said his client essentially paused its application they filed earlier this year with Oro Valley while negotiating with The Conservation Fund over purchasing the property. When Romspen declined The Conservation Fund’s offer, the mortgage company decided it would make more sense to wait another year, Lopez said. 

“We hadn’t really gone through the process. Oro Valley requires a certain number of meetings with the public, commissions and council meetings,” Lopez said. “Just looking at the time schedule and being realistic, they felt it would be better to wait.”

Mike Ford, southwest director for The Conservation Fund, said they had made Romspen a “full fair market value” on the property based on a joint appraisal both parties agreed to as per their contract. However Romspen disagreed with the appraiser’s valuation of the property and declined to accept the offer. 

Both Lopez and Ford are unable to discuss the exact amount offered or the amount Romspen expected due to a nondisclosure agreement in the negotiation contract, but Ford said the discrepancy was “significant”.   

“There was a significant difference between what (Romspen) indicated they would accept and the appraisal I presented them, defined as fair market value,” Ford said. “What I can say without violating anything is people always have various expectations about what their property is worth.”

Ford said he believes the mortgage company is waiting to see if they can get Oro Valley to rezone the area for more residential use and is adding that speculative figure to the property’s value. Should Romspen get the area rezoned, the nonprofit would consider a second appraisal, he said. 

“Speculative value is not something you pay somebody for because you don’t know that it will manifest itself or not,” Ford said. “What you can’t do when you’re dealing with public, philanthropic money is give it away. We don’t buy land for greater than fair market value as approved by a bonafide appraiser.”

Lopez maintains the agreement The Conservation Fund entered into stated the appraisal had to show that it was at least equal to the minimum amount the seller is willing to accept. The attorney also said his client pointed out several erroneous calculations made on the appraisal which was brought to both the nonprofit and the appraiser’s attention, but no changes were made. 

“We told the Conservation Fund the seller was willing to come down a little bit on their number, but they essentially said they wanted to stick with the appraiser’s number,” Lopez said. “It’s the appraiser’s and buyer’s opinions of value versus the seller’s opinion on value. When people agree, deals are made. When people don’t agree, they’re not.” 

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