Developers Preserve Open Spaces to Lure Clients and Please Regulators

Multimillion-dollar houses, spas, golf courses, tennis courts, open space — sounds like the old Sesame Street game of “one of these things is not like the others.” But it turns out that untrammeled wilderness is one of the hottest new amenities people look for in resorts and second homes, and increasingly, developers are rushing to offer potential buyers pristine land, lovely views, and protection from the creeping threat of sprawl. What’s in it for them? Clients, of course, but also, sometimes, tax breaks and easier permitting processes. As Roger McErlane of the Irvine Community Development Company put it, “These days, you have to have a bit of Montana in every project.” But environmentalists are wary of the trend, noting that development still carves up land with dire consequences for natural habitat, and that the “open spaces” preserved within such projects are often closed to the general public.