Pension fund that owns Painted Hills under scrutiny

2014-01-30T14:30:00Z 2014-01-31T08:45:20Z Pension fund that owns Painted Hills under scrutinyDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A Dallas pension fund that owns the scenic Painted Hills property in Tucson is trying to avoid an independent audit of its books.

Dallas officials want to ensure its police and fire pension fund isn’t overvaluing its investments to portray a rosier financial picture, according to the Dallas Morning News. You can read the article here.

The Dallas Police and Fire Pension System garnered scrutiny over the years for investing large sums of money in real estate ventures.

In Tucson, the pension fund paid $27 million in 2005 for just under 290 acres of land between West Speedway and West Anklam Road in the Painted Hills area.

Pima County had wanted to purchase the land to preserve it. But county officials weren’t going to fork over $93,000 an acre for a property with an assessed value at about $4 million.

As a comparison, one year prior to the pension fund purchase, 284-acres of Painted Hills’ property fetched $3.3 million, or $11,631 per acre, in two separate purchases.

The Dallas pension fund purchase price was the highest ever seen in the Tucson area for a vacant parcel with a one-home-per-acre zoning.

In fall 2012, the pension fund and the city negotiated over a plan to swap the Ronstadt Transit Center for the Painted Hills property. As part of the plan, the city would agree to sell the Painted Hills to the county for $3.6 million.

But that plan fell through when word leaked about the discussion and transit supporters protested.

The city council essentially killed the land swap deal last February when they adopted a "development vision" for the Ronstadt Center to maintain it as a transit hub while allowing for some development.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or Follow on twitter @DarrenDaRonco​

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Arizona Daily Star's Government blog includes stories and related items from Tucson and Pima County written by Star reporters Darren DaRonco and Jamar Younger.

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