MINTURN, Colorado - Bidding continued Tuesday for a possible open space parcel in Minturn.
That U.S. Forest Service-owned parcel, known as "the Boneyard," is nearly 4 acres of flat, riverside property on the south end of town, across U.S. Highway 24 from Forest Service housing. The land has for years been eyed as possible open space for the town, but the town hasn't had the money to be the sole purchaser of the property.
The Eagle County commissioners last year approved spending money from the county's open space funds to put up 90 percent of the purchase price, with the town covering the remainder from funds freed up last year in an agreement with the developers of the proposed Battle Mountain ski resort.
But instead of a straight purchase, the property was put up for auction by the General Services Agency, the government department in charge of selling excess property.
The town and county on Dec. 13 of last year put up the opening bid of $1.25 million. That looked like the winning bid for nearly a month, until a second bidder popped up Jan. 10, just five days before the auction was supposed to end.
The second bidder has submitted bids of $1.3 million, $1.5 million, then $1.65 million Tuesday, which was supposed to be the last day of the auction. Each bid was one-upped by the county by the minimum of $10,000
Unlike other online auctions, though, rules for selling federal property don't put a hard-and-fast end to bidding. Bidding only ends when there hasn't been any activity for 24 hours.
That means that "bidder 2" has until about 1 p.m. to match the current Eagle County bid.
County open space coordinator Toby Sprunk Tuesday met with the Eagle County commissioners to plot strategy for landing the parcel. That meeting - an executive session, since it involved negotiations for the sale of property - ended with Sprunk getting the county's "all in" bid number. That number won't be made public until the auction has ended.
This is where the federal auction starts to look like eBay. The county has submitted a maximum bid. "Only the (federal) computer knows what the number is," Sprunk said.
That means the federal auction system will automatically one-up any other bid by $10,000 until the maximum bid is reached.
Despite the presence of a second bidder, Minturn Town Council member George Brodin said he's confident the property will end up as open space. He also added that if a private bidder does prevail in the auction, that person may not be able to develop the property.
Brodin said the town has for years identified the Boneyard as potential park and open space property.
"If you buy it, you've got to get the zoning changed," Brodin said. That's going to take a willing town council and "that's going to take at least one, and maybe two, election cycles," he added.
While the second bidder on the property hasn't been identified, Brodin encouraged whomever that might be to look at other parcels in town.
"If you took the one across the street (also owned by the Forest Service), you'd have that view corridor toward the river forever," Brodin said.
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.