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Purchasing Land for the Preserve

Scottsdale voters approved a .2% sales tax increase on May 23, 1995, and an additional .15% sales tax on May 18, 2004, to acquire land within the RSB for the Preserve. Proceeds from the 1995 tax can only be used for land acquisition within Scottsdale's city boundaries. Proceeds from the 2004 tax will primarily be used for land acquisition but can also be used for the provision of Preserve amenities, such as improvements in access areas (parking, restrooms, ramadas, signage, etc.) and for the construction of trails to accommodate passive recreational use of the Preserve. Funds for maintenance, management and stewardship of the Preserve will need to come from other sources.

Other important voter approvals regarding the Preserve include:

  • In September 1996, voters approved the use of Revenue Bonds to acquire land using proceeds from the sales tax increase.
  • In November 1998, voters approved expanding the boundary in which the Preserve tax could be used for land acquisition to include an additional 19,940 acres, and changed the City charter to provide further assurance that land put in the Preserve would be permanently protected. 
  • In September 1999, voters approved the use of up to $200 million dollars in general obligation bonds.  The intent is to use proceeds from the Preserve tax to pay off all general obligation bonds.
  • In May 2004, voters approved the use of up to $500 million dollars in general obligation bonds.  The intent is to use proceeds from the Preserve tax to payoff all general obligation bonds.

Land Acquisition Process

All land the City desires to purchase for the Preserve is appraised to determine fair market value.  A second appraiser is hired to review the appraisal.  Independent appraisers selected from a list of approved appraisers perform all appraisals.  The Scottsdale City Council makes the final decision on each land acquisition for the Preserve.

Status of Land Acquisitions

The first ten years of the preservation program, the city has focused efforts on acquiring private land in the planned Preserve boundary and on petitioning the State under the Arizona Preserve Initiative (API) to reclassify state land as suitable for conservation.  As of 2007, all private land has been acquired or is in the process of being acquired.  Of the total 19,643 acres of State Trust land in the planned Preserve boundary, 16,100 acres have been reclassified as suitable for conservation under the API (Reclassified State Trust Land - 16,100 acres).  It will be necessary for the city to compete at auction to acquire the remaining 3.543 acres of State Trust land for the Preserve that were not reclassified as suitable for conservation. A broad based and diverse consortium of interests have been working for several years on broad based State Land Reform that would provide additional tools to assist Scottsdale and other Arizona communities in preserving appropriate State Trust land within each community's boundary.

McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission, a citizen oversight body, provides input into the acquisition process, and advises the City Council on all matters related to the Preserve. There are eleven commissioners, who are appointed by the City Council to serve a three year term. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission generally meets on the first Thursday of each month with the exception of the two months of July and August. Please confirm the date, place and the time of the meeting with the Preservation office @ 480-312-2577 or the City Clerk @ 480-312-2412 if planning to attend.

The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, a non-profit organization which initiated the preserve effort, provides private education programs and advocacy programs for completion and proper management of the Preserve programs.

Some Preserve Land Has Been Donated
A portion of the land desired for the Preserve has been protected by land owners through the development review process.  Four large parcels in the Preserve were donated to the City subsequent to the development review process.  There may be limited opportunities for land trades and private purchases in the future.  Funding assistance from other governmental and private entities is being actively pursued. 

Not All Land Desired for the Preserve will be Protected

Some land in the foothills had already been developed or was in the process of being developed prior to initiation of the preservation program.  The City of Scottsdale is committed to purchasing and managing as much land as possible for the Preserve.

Tax Increase Ends When Land Purchases are Complete

In the event there is no more land to purchase prior to the 30 years specified for each tax increase (1995 tax - 2025, 2004 tax - 2034) the tax would end at the time all bonds are repaid.  With the addition of over 19,000 acres desired for inclusion in the Preserve in 1998, it is unlikely that the existing taxes will be adequate to fund aquisition of all of the land in the expanded Preserve boundary. Additional funding may need to be considered.

Partnerships Create the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

The Scottsdale City Council, City staff, and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission are working together with other jurisdictions such as Maricopa County, the Town of Fountain Hills, Scottsdale Community College and other private groups like the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, to oversee and plan for the long term stewardship of the Preserve.