County buys Painted Hills for $8.3 million - Tucson News Now

County buys Painted Hills for $8.3 million

Posted: Updated:
  • Most ReadMost ReadMore>>

  • Tucson Police investigating two possible hit and run incidents

    Tucson Police investigating two possible hit and run incidents

    Monday, September 15 2014 12:05 PM EDT2014-09-15 16:05:27 GMT
    Tucson Police officials are searching for two vehicles involved in two separate collisions on Monday morning. 
    Tucson Police officials are searching for two vehicles involved in two separate collisions on Monday morning. 
  • CA Police: Man cooks girlfriends' dog after dispute

    CA Police: Man cooks girlfriends' dog after dispute

    Sunday, September 14 2014 10:32 PM EDT2014-09-15 02:32:51 GMT
    A man in California allegedly killed and cooked his girlfriend's dog, then fed it to her. 
    A man in California allegedly killed and cooked his girlfriend's dog, then fed it to her. 
  • BP agents stop 3 drug smuggling attempts

    BP agents stop 3 drug smuggling attempts

    Monday, September 15 2014 4:43 PM EDT2014-09-15 20:43:56 GMT
    Last week Border Patrol agents seized more than $1 million in marijuana, as suspects attempted to smuggle it across the border into the U.S. In a recent release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, agents with the Ajo Station, stopped three suspected smuggling attempts on Sept. 11. 
    Last week Border Patrol agents seized more than $1 million in marijuana, as suspects attempted to smuggle it across the border into the U.S. In a recent release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, agents with the Ajo Station, stopped three suspected smuggling attempts on Sept. 11. 
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -  In 1997, the voters gave Pima County $6.5 million to buy Painted Hills on West Speedway for open space.

Nearly 290 acres on Tucson's westside, it's a unique parcel with more than 9,000 saguaro and many types of wildlife.

But the owner found a buyer willing to pay more, who in turn found another buyer willing to spend $27 million for the property and develop it.

"At that point, we knew we were out of the game," says Pima Board Chair Sharon Bronson. "We could never afford that."

But the housing market collapsed, the city denied water rights to the property and so the owner decided to eat the loss and sell to the county for $7.5 million plus interest bringing the total to $8.3 million.

"With inflation, we probably bought it for less than the original amount," says Bronson. "I think we saved some dollars and saved a beautiful piece of land."

But the vote from the county board was not unanimous. It was four in favor and one against the purchase.

Voting against it was District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller, who doesn't not think it's money well spent and also complained during the same meeting on a different development issue, "that Pima County has a reputation across the state and nation for blocking development."

Open space preservation has caused a rift at times between the county and development community.

The pygmy owl issue during the 1990's and into the 2000's, which was resolved in court, is a prime example.

 But county voters have given the green light to the county for projects like the Painted Hills.

"Voters in Pima County voted for open space bonds and these are open space bonds," says County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. "So we're doing nothing more than fulfilling the wishes of the voters."

Huckelberry says "natural resource preservation enhances values."

Bronson agrees.

"I think the value is it enhances our economic development by providing the open space that we need," she says. "We know that this generation of high tech folks want to see."

The property will be added to the Tucson Mountain Park, the biggest addition to the park in more than a decade.

 What makes it even more valuable according the Huckelberry it that it's so close to town.

"Historically, it sets Tucson apart from other urban communities that consume natural resources." he says. "We're preserving them."

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.
Powered by WorldNow