Minturn officials planning for possible sale of U.S. Forest Service site | VailDaily.com

Minturn officials planning for possible sale of U.S. Forest Service site

The administrative parcel at Dowd Junction includes the two parking lots and an office facility. Photo by Rachael Zimmerman

Four facts

What: U.S. Forest Service property at Dowd Junction.

Where: At the base of the Interstate 70 Minturn interchange.

Size: About 14 acres.

How it might sell: Through a simple purchase — following a number of administrative steps.

MINTURN — If the U.S. Forest Service ever sells its property at Dowd Junction, then the town of Minturn officials want to be ready. But a sale remains in the indefinite future.

The Forest Service usually only disposes of property through exchanges for other parcels of equal value. Since the office site at Dowd Junction is classified as an “administrative” parcel, it can be sold in a traditional deal.

But there are stumbling blocks. First, the Forest Service would have to strike a deal for another headquarters facility before moving out of its existing offices in Minturn and Eagle. District Ranger Aaron Mayville said officials are looking at a number of sites, including a never-occupied office building in Eagle.

Exploring Ideas

If the Forest Service gets the go-ahead for a new headquarters building, then the sites in Minturn and Eagle could be put up for sale, pending reviews under the National Environmental Protection Act — to identify wetlands, hazards or other environmentally sensitive areas. That review would be followed by a public comment period.

The current Eagle site is in the middle of the older part of town, roughly across the street to the north of the Eagle County Administration Building. The 14-acre Dowd Junction site has far more potential. It’s that potential Minturn town officials are exploring.

The town has put together a small committee of town council and staff members to explore ideas. Minturn Town Council member Sidney Harrington is a member of that committee.

Harrington said the committee now is simply looking at ideas for what the property might look like if the parcel is sold.

At the moment, the parcel is within Minturn’s town boundaries. Since the property is owned by the federal government, though, the land hasn’t yet been zoned. Part of the committee’s work is to examine what kind of zoning the land should have.

No decisions have been made, and decisions won’t be made until there’s a pending deal and following public hearings about possible land uses.

Until those steps are taken — again, there’s no timetable for any of this — the committee’s work amounts to informal master planning and thinking about the future of the parcel.

That thinking now leans toward mostly commercial uses for the land. A natural grocery store would be nice — and a potential tax revenue generator for the town. Other possible uses include a movie theater, restaurants and, maybe, a small hotel.

What isn’t on the list is any sort of gas station, Harrington said. And, she added, there probably won’t be much in the way of housing if the site is ever developed.

If the site is sold, then Harrington and fellow council member Earle Bidez both said there will still be public access to Meadow Mountain.

“We’ve been talking about this for two years,” Bidez said. “We’re guaranteeing access to Meadow Mountain for snowmobilers, hikers and skiers.”

Harrington said town officials have also talked about ways to possibly purchase the property, but said she can’t provide details now.

The town’s planning will remain in the “just thinking” state until the Forest Service makes some decisions of its own. And that’s a long-term process. Beyond the slow-moving nature of the federal government in general, the Forest Service in the past few years has had its budget cut. That affects manpower and the ability to plan facilities.

“We’ve been talking about this since before I was elected (in April 2016),” Harrington said. “I’ve been very excited about it, but it doesn’t feel like we’ve gotten anywhere.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.