Sunday, February 7, 2010

Model-home opening brings close to trust-land battle

Peter Corbett The Arizona Republic Feb. 4, 2010 04:30 PM

When Lennar opens its Estates at Lone Mountain on Saturday, it will signal the end of a long chapter of development that involved costly state land and neighbors' efforts to preserve it.

Lennar is opening two model homes in the gated Lone Mountain community, planned for 800 houses on 600 acres northwest of 64th Street and Lone Mountain Road. Prices range from $460,000 to $531,000 for homes of 2,900 to 3,800 square feet.

"We're not in any hurry," said Adam Jones, Lennar division president in Arizona. "We'll build three to four homes per month if that's what the market demands."
Lennar is planning 400 homes, including 48 in the first phase.

By necessity, Miami, Fla.-based Lennar has been patient in developing the Estates at Lone Mountain. Neighbors fought long and hard to preserve the square-mile desert site, and now the battered economy could limit demand for new homes.

Lennar is in a joint venture with Pulte Homes to build Lone Mountain.

Pulte plans to start sales in April on its 390 home sites. That includes 60-foot-wide lots with homes targeted for move-up family buyers and empty nesters, Pulte spokeswoman Jacque Petroulakis said.

Land sold a decade ago

Lennar's US Home division was the winning bidder 10 years ago for the state trust land that is now the site of the Estates at Lone Mountain. The homebuilder paid $38.5 million for 608 acres, a record price at the time for state land.

Neighbors in 2000 had already mobilized to fight development, arguing that building 800 homes was too dense in an area of 1-acre lots. They said the project would tax area roads, washes and schools.

Lone Mountain's model homes are within sight of Cactus Shadows High School.

"I'm sorry to see the desert disappear," said Richard Corton, a resident who used to run on the state land. "I guess there is not much we can do to stop progress."

Opponents did slow development of Lone Mountain. A group called Save Our Sonoran appealed the state land auction and filed a federal lawsuit to block development. At issue was how construction would affect washes that cut across the land.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the case, and the developer ultimately prevailed.

Now the project is contoured to protect the washes with roughly half of the site preserved as open space, said Jones, the Lennar executive.

Much of the vegetation, including tall saguaros, has been preserved in place or replanted.

No back-to-back lots

The community is laid out so that none of the homes will be built back-to-back but will instead have open space with view fences. Lots are as large as a half-acre.
Lone Mountain is between 64th and 56th streets from Lone Mountain Road to Dove Valley Road, a mile south of Carefree Highway.

It is in Phoenix and the Cave Creek School District with a Scottsdale mailing address.

Lennar is offering four floor plans, two of them one-story layouts and all with three-car garages. Three of the plans have four bedrooms and a den, and the other has three bedrooms and a flexible room.

A 30-acre community park will feature a playground, basketball court and ramadas with picnic tables and barbecue grills.

A grand opening is planned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the model homes, 5910 E. White Pine Drive. The entrance is off Lone Mountain Road at 60th Street.

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