The History of Las Campanas

It takes a lot to turn a vast cattle ranch into a community such as Las Campanas—a lot of foresight, a lot of effort, and a lot of money. The history of Las Campanas is a unique story of entrepreneurial effort, creative vision, and business acumen combined with occasional touches of political savvy, salesmanship, and good (and bad) fortune.
It's a fascinating and engaging story, with some larger-than-life personalities whose freewheeling styles and willingness to take risks created one of the Southwest's premier residential communities.
Below are articles about the history of Las Campanas, prepared by Las Campanas resident Doug Strasser. The articles have been slightly edited from the versions that originally appeared in El Vocero, the The Club at Las Campanas newsletter, and are used here with permission of Doug and the Club.

A Ranch, a Pipeline, a Vision, and Las Campanas

  • By Doug Strasser
Editor’s Note: This article is based on a meeting between Las Campanas residents Doug Strasser, CT Herman and “Bumble Bee” Bob Weil on Dec 11, 2015.
How It Began
In 1955 Bob Weil and Zannie Hoyt graduated from Ivy League schools in the east, got married, and moved to Bob's home town of Saint Louis. He did not get along with his father and had no interest in the family's shoe manufacturing business. He wanted to find his own way in life. Zannie was a very accomplished equestrian and even qualified for the Olympics at one point. Zannie came from a wealthy New York family; her father was the managing director of the Carter Wallace personal care company (Carter’s Little Liver Pills/Trojan condoms). They decided to go west.
Bob always wanted to have a ranch after going to boys camps in Colorado and Arizona in the 50s. By late 1960 Bob and Zannie had three kids and another on the way. They decided to move to Tucson from Saint Louis so Bob could go to ag school at the University of Arizona. He needed to learn about the business of being a cattle rancher if he was going to run a ranch.
In the spring of 1961, while Bob was still in school, he learned of the availability of the 31,000 acre Buckman Ranch. The ranch was near Santa Fe, NM, a few miles out of town to the northwest. Bob and Zannie visited the ranch and bought it on sight. The Weils renamed it The Santa Fe Ranch.
The ranch was made up of only 1900 owned acres; the rest of the 31,000 acres was leased. At that time, you could lease land from the state and the Bureau of Land Management for as little as 12 cents an acre per year! There was no ranch house on the property, only a small cabin without water or electricity for the ranch hands.
In 1962 the Weils had Bradbury Stamm build a new ranch house on Entrada Calabasa Road. The ranch house started at 1700 square feet, eventually growing over the years to about 4000 square feet. From 1998 to 2009 Zannie had it remodeled (by builder and Las Campanas member Dennis Saye). 
Due to sparse grazing conditions, the ranch could not support a large number of cattle, but the Weils were able to graze about 450 head. The only source of water for the cattle (and for the Weils) was from either new or existing wells within the ranch. There was no other water source available. The area that was to become Las Campanas had two wells for the entire 4500 acres. The Weils were able to get electricity to the ranch house via a two mile extension from a utility pole at the end of Tano Road to the east of their property.
In 1962, just a year after arriving, the Weils had the vision to realize that the land could eventually be valuable for something beyond ranching. They felt there was a big opportunity for residential development of the land that was nearest to the city limits. To prepare for that possibility, the Weils  began the acquiring ownership of the land, rather than leasing. In 1962, Bob and Zannie bought 8000 acres of the land they were leasing from the State of New Mexico. Over the years they purchased another 2000 acres from other sources, bringing their total owned/deeded land up to approximately 10,000 acres, all of it relatively close to Santa Fe.
La Tierra and Water, Water, Water
Between 1962 and 1966, Bob and Zannie began planning a large residential development that became known as La Tierra, Ltd. Water was not an issue for La Tierra, since the multi-10 acre lots could be adequately serviced with wells. Water for the remaining higher density area that became Las Campanas, however, was less certain.
That changed in 1972 when PNM's Sangre de Cristo Water Company planned to drill several wells close to the Rio Grande river near the site of the old town of Buckman, in order to meet a state engineer's order to provide more water for Santa Fe. To deliver the water, PNM needed a pipeline from Buckman to the city. The line would have to run through the Weil's Santa Fe Ranch. The Weils understood the future value of the pipeline and negotiated a deal with PNM to provide the right-of-way at no fee, in return for rights to a considerable quantity of water from the new pipeline. Without this access, it is doubtful that Las Campanas would have happened. Later in 1995, when PNM sold its Sangre de Cristo Water Company to the City of Santa Fe, the City sued in an unsuccessful effort to reverse the deal.  
Camino La Tierra
In 1981 Bob Weil personally put in the original Camino La Tierra road (he graded much of it himself), which went from town all the way out to the La Tierra development over what was then part of the old Buckman dirt road, AKA “The Dump Road.” Bob won the argument on a new name with a little help from some city counselors. The name Camino La Tierra” became official. It was the first paved road in the county, constructed at a cost of $600,000 paid by the Weils. Highway 599 eventually was put in over the old Camino La Tierra roadbed from town to the current Las Campanas exit.
Bob and Zannie divorced in 1983. It is unclear how the assets were divided, but Zannie retained the original ranch house and 500+ acres surrounding it, plus access to the back leased ranch lands where she continued to raise cattle until 1999. Zannie also remained involved in management of the ranch for many years after the divorce and may have actually been in control of the business as the general partner at one point. Zannie remarried sometime before 1986 to Joe Eloy Garcia, who was the ranch foreman.
The Birth of Las Campanas
Sometime after 1984, PNM's Meadows Resources, Inc (the investment arm of PNM) approached the Weils regarding some of the land that was owned by La Tierra Ltd. They were part of a partnership that wanted to build a high end residential golf facility. PNM knew Bob and Zannie and the property from the 1972 Buckman pipeline right-of-way negotiations. PNM was part of a partnership group that was interested in developing what they called at the time "Dutch Meadows Estates" on approximately 4900 acres of the Weil ranch. Note: Zannie called the area where the clubhouse is now "Dutch Pastures, the land of the happy cattle."
In 1985 the partnership included Meadows Resources, Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of PNM; Franchise Finance Corp. of America (FFCA), an E.F. Hutton affiliate; and Lyle Anderson, a well known Phoenix residential golf facilities developer. On Jan 30, 1986 the partnership received county approval of the plan for the project. The final deal was put together during a meeting with Zannie and representatives from the partnership at a “green roof” house just off of Camino La Tierra, across from the entrance to what is now Estates II. On Sept 30, 1987 La Tierra Ltd. sold approximately 4900 acres of the Weil's Santa Fe Ranch to the partnership. 
Read more about the development of Las Campanas in "Lyle Anderson: The Man Who Created Las Campanas."
Zannie Weil Garcia was very active with various projects and charities in the community, including the Santa Fe Community Foundation. She was also very involved in the business of the Santa Fe Ranch and La Tierra Ltd. Even though Zannie was only 4' 11'' she was known to be very strong willed and feisty. Zannie died in 2010, at age 75. The remaining 500+ acres of the Santa Fe Ranch are now owned by her children. Much of it is on the market.

Bob Weil picked up the nickname "Bumble Bee Bob" from his former ranch in AZ that was near the old town of Bumble Bee. Everyone called his ranch the Bumble Bee Ranch and called him Bumble Bee Bob. So he stuck with the name and then named his new restaurant in Santa Fe the same, Bumble Bee's Baja Grill. Bob created the restaurant in 2003 because he viewed himself as a chef, loved Baja style Mexican cooking, and needed something to do, and it remains a Santa Fe fixture.
Bob and his current wife of many years, BJ, moved to Mexico in 2016. They no longer own residential property in the USA, but they come to Santa Fe regularly for visits with the kids and to check in on the Bumble Bee restaurant.
Bob Weil—personal recollections and photos
Zannie Weil Garcia—“A Brief History of the Santa Fe Ranch Lands"
C.T. Herman—personal recollections
David Ater—personal recollections

Lyle Anderson: The Man Who Created Las Campanas

By Doug Strasser


Las Campanas is the realization of a vision by developer Lyle Anderson. Anderson is a native of the Seattle area. He earned an electrical engineering degree from the University of Washington and went to work as a management trainee for a telephone company.


He later became part-time sales manager and broker for a Seattle area golf residential community, where he got his start in real estate. By the late 1960s, he was acquiring vacant land in Washington state and forming limited partnerships.
In a 2018 interview from Dreams Magazine, Anderson said, “My childhood experiences with the family’s nine-hole golf course in Seattle that flooded and ruined my family financially has been a major part of my soul and passions.”
Anderson moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in 1975 at the age of 32. His land partnerships (land syndication) there were successful enough that by the early 1980s he ventured into residential development. “I started to buy land for investment groups and had good success.”
He then progressed into just buying land for his own investment. “The Desert Highlands property was one of the first pieces I bought on my own. I just bought it as an investment, to buy it, hold it, resell it.” But one day while playing golf with a friend, Lyle thought out loud and said to his friend, “Well, wait a minute, I might do a golf course,” remembering the days with his dad. 
Lyle had a vision and a dream that was based on his belief that people were aspiring to be a member of a private club; they aspired to having some privacy; and they aspired to live in the beautiful desert where homes and the golf courses were folded into the environment and not just bulldozed flat lots.
According to Martin Kaufmann of Golf Week, Lyle Anderson’s reputation as the “Father of Desert Golf” is the result of the three master planned golf communities in greater metropolitan Phoenix/Scottsdale area and his fourth on the high and dry arroyo-carved plain outside Santa Fe—Las Campanas.
Kaufmann states in an April 2011 article about Anderson that, “It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Lyle Anderson literally put Scottsdale on the map.” In the early 1980s, nearly two decades before construction was completed on the Loop 101 highway around Scottsdale, Anderson took over a failed, 850-acre development northeast of town, up on East Happy Valley Road. Starting in 1982 he began building Desert Highlands at this location. It was one of the first high-end desert communities, included a Jack Nicklaus designed tournament quality golf course and established the Anderson template. It was the first Anderson golf community, followed by Desert Mountain and Superstition Mountain in the Phoenix area. 
His fourth community was Las Campanas. In the mid 1980s, Anderson was made aware of a potential desert residential golf opportunity on a large ranch just outside Santa Fe, N.M. Anderson began as an advisor to the Las Campanas project, but once he got involved and saw the opportunity he quickly came over as a partner. 
In 1985 the partnership included PNM’s Meadows Resources, EF Hutton’s Franchise Finance Corp. and Anderson. On Sept 30, 1987 the partnership purchased 4900 acres of Bob and Zannie Weil’s Santa Fe Ranch just northwest of Santa Fe. 
Anderson named it Las Campanas (The Bells) because he said it was so quiet there you could hear the church bells ringing from miles away. Anderson then brought in Jack Nicklaus to design and build two championship golf courses.
In 1987, EF Hutton dropped out of the partnership, as did PNM in 1989, leaving Anderson the sole owner. He brought in the Bass brothers from Texas, initially for additional financing and later as 50/50 partners in 1991. In 2000, Anderson bought out the Bass Brothers, leaving him the sole owner of Las Campanas. By 2008, $150 million had been invested, sourced from Anderson, his partners, and land sale proceeds.
Las Campanas was different from Anderson’s other projects. It utilized an open-space design with 1717 large lots divided into 13+ neighborhoods. The Las Campanas Sunrise golf course opened for play in 1992 and the Sunset course opened in 2001. 
For his fifth and sixth projects, Lyle ventured far from the Southwest, transforming the historic Loch Lomond in Scotland in 1994 into a golf community and beginning creation of Hokuli’a on the big island of Hawaii in 2002.
At Hokuli’a, a lawsuit filed by Kona local residents claimed that the property, which was zoned as agricultural land, needed to be reclassified as urban land, a process that can take years. In 2003, more than five years after Anderson secured zoning permits to build Hokuli’a, a state circuit court judge sided with the residents and ordered a halt to development. 
In 2006, the judge approved a settlement of the lawsuit but the damage had been done. “We won, but really (the activists) won because they took six years of the greatest market we ever had and we were (left) on the bench,” Anderson says. “That really hurt. It certainly ran up my debts with the bank. That was a difficult thing.”
By the time sales resumed at Hokuli’a, the housing market was collapsing along with the broader economy. “I’ve got a lot of scars from that one,” Anderson acknowledges. Hokuli’a was particularly damaging because financing for all of Andersons developments was intertwined. Problems at one development affected his other properties. In January 2008, according to The Wall Street Journal, Anderson defaulted on a $1 billion mortgage with his lender, the Bank of Scotland. Later that year, the bank took control of Hokuli’a, Superstition Mountain, Las Campanas, and Loch Lomond via the terms of their agreement. 
There was no bankruptcy, but Anderson was out. A management firm was retained by the bank to run the properties. The Club at Las Campanas members were notified of the situation by letter from Anderson in the fall of 2008 and in 2010 the Club was turned over to them debt free, thanks to excellent member planning.
Anderson remains an active developer. Projects proposed or in development include:
  • Pali Kai,Hawai—One of Anderson's previous land acquisitions of approximately 400 acres on the coast of the big island divided into six parcels of land averaging 60+ acres per parcel with private beach access. 
  • La Privadaat, Chileno Bay, Los Cabos, Mexico—Anderson is developing a small enclave. He has been going to the area for 20 years and has a home there. 
  • Quivira, Los Cabos, Mexico—2000 acres, one golf course. Anderson is developing 200 acres within the facility at the beach. 
  • Santa Fe—330 acres just outside of the city limits. Anderson proposed a residential development on this site but has since put the project on hold.
Sources and Credits 
  • Steve Tobia, 2018 Dreams Magazine article; "The Lyle Anderson story”
  • Martin Kaufmann of Golf Week, April 4, 2011
  • The Wall Street Journal, Jan 2008
  • Executive Golfer, Feb 1997
  • CLC25 Book Committee interview with Lyle Anderson and other former execs, Scottsdale at Lyle Anderson Company's offices, April 12, 2016
  • John Yabtis, “Build It and They Will Play," Mar 13, 2005 East Valley Tribune