Open Space Survey
Voice your opinion

By Korina Riggin | March 4, 2009

“Not since Cave Creek residents overwhelmingly voted to tax themselves to protect the more than 2,000 acre Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, has an opportunity like this come along. It may never come along again,” said Cave Creek Mayor, Vincent Francia of the recent agreement with the State Land Department. More than five years in the making, the Town of Cave Creek is only a few months away from preserving over 4,000 acres of prime Sonoran Desert habitat. Thanks to a ground-breaking agreement with the State Land Department, the Town will annex nearly 6,000 acres of State Trust Land. Much of the land being annexed is adjacent to two County Parks – Cave Creek Regional Park and the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area.

Through negotiations with the State Land Department, Town staff garnered support for a concept known as “density transfer.” As a result of the density transfers, portions of the State Trust Lands currently located within the Town boundaries and designated tracts located within the annexation areas would be set aside for higher density residential or commercial uses. As a result of the density transfer the Town would be able to preserve 4000 acres as open space.

On October 20, 2008, the Governor’s Selection Committee, which considers all annexation proposals, granted Cave Creek the authorization to move forward. In January 2009 the State Land Commissioner gave his stamp of approval. The annexation and zoning actions taken by the Town will require public hearings and approval of the Town Council.

Once this process is completed, the State Land Department may auction the annexed land subject to the Town approved underlying zoning. The proposed conservation lands are to be zoned for conservation purposes and thus cannot be developed. As a result of the subject land use designation the Town will be in a favorable position to acquire these properties when the State Land Department puts them up for auction. Per the approved development agreement between the Town and the State Land Department the Town will have a maximum of 20 years to purchase the 4,000 acres of open space.

So how much will the Town have to pay for the Open Space? To answer that question, the Town hired a real estate appraisal firm with a history of working with the State Land Department. After a thorough analysis, the firm determined that the value of the conservation lands would appraise at $400 to $500 per acre. This figure results from the fact that the land can only be used for conservation or low-impact recreational purposes. The total acquisition cost for the open space is estimated to be between $1.55 and $2 million. The Town qualifies for matching funding assistance from the Growing Smarter Initiative passed by voters in 1998 for the acquisition of open space. Factoring in anticipated funding assistance from the Growing Smarter Initiative the Town would be required to raise approximately $750,000 to $1,000,000 to secure protection of these valuable lands.

To celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve over six square miles of living desert, the Town of Cave Creek, in conjunction with the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department and in partnership with the Desert Foothills Land Trust, will present a Preservation Celebration to be held at the new Cave Creek Park Visitor Center, Saturday, April 18, 2009 from 2 – 6 p.m. For more details contact the Town of Cave Creek at 480-488-1400.

The Town has prepared a survey requesting your input regarding your priorities for the use of this Open Space. To express your opinion please access the following web site ( If you are a customer of the Town’s water utility, you can fill out and return the survey, which will be included in an upcoming water bill.