Conservation group buys part of Palmwood development for $3.9 million
About a third of the land reserved for Palmwood, a proposed development just outside Desert Hot Springs boundaries that promised a world-class golf course among high-end homes and a luxury hotel, has been sold at a discount to the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission.
The 1,766-acre project near Highway 62 and Indian Avenue across a freeway from Palm Springs, had hit environmental and financial snags. The project's land fell inside the Coachella Valley Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan - a plan in the works since 1996 that was ultimately approved by eight Coachella Valley cities and Riverside County in 2007 and went into effect Oct. 2008. Before the plan was approved though, Palmwood's developer - Michael Crosby -- ran into funding challenges and the project's investors ousted him.
On Friday afternoon, the Coachella Valley Association of Governments - which created the multi-species plan and staffs the Conservation Commission - announced it had bought 638 acres of Palmwood land for $3.9 million. That was $1.1 million less than the land's market value, said Katie Barrows, director of environmental resources for CVAG.
Barrows said the group hopes to acquire more of the land that had been intended for Palmwood but will need more funding.
Funds that the group could have normally relied on, such as state bonds, have been frozen because of the economic recession, she said.
Construction on the Palmwood project never started and the land remains barren desert devoid of the one million-square-feet of retail space, Phil Mickelson golf course, homes and hotel originally proposed.
Just because something hasn't been developed on the land yet, doesn't mean someone wouldn't build on it in the future, Barrows said.
"To ultimately conserve land, you need to own it," she said.
Before Friday, the Conservancy Commission had bought 227 acres in the Coachella Valley for $3.45 million. Eventually, the group hopes to acquire and preserve 90,000 acres of desert land.
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