HEALDSBURG, March 21, 2003 -- Fitch Mountain will become public land under a $2.65 million sale to a group reportedly interested in making the 200-acre Ratchford family property open space.

A group called F.R.A.N.C.E.Z., LLC, and led by attorney Edwin Wilson closed escrow on the eight parcels March 17. Eric Drew of Healdsburg Realty represented both sides of the deal and announced the sale today.

Another member of the group is Frances Etchell, who worked on the city's Heritage Tree Ordinance.

"The family is pleased that the group buying the property is interested in making the property open space and is interested in continuing the lengthy and uncertain process of working with the Open Space District," Mr. Drew said.

The Ratchford Family Partnership planned to sell the land to the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District, a process that can take nine to 18 months. The family needed to sell the land more quickly, so it put the land on the market in October, Mr. Drew said.

Since the property went on the market, it garnered interest from homebuilders for the potential to build estate homes on seven three- to 12-acre parcels.