Proposed land swap gets a new twist
The two parcels were under contract to be sold in 1996 for $3.2 million to part-time Beaver Creek resident Robert Brotman, who wanted to develop 18 multi-million-dollar, 35-acre homesites on one of the parcels near Arrowhead, and trade the other one, north of the interstate, for another parcel of public land adjoining the first parcel.
That deal was pushed through just before new rules changing the makeup of the Land Board were enacted.
The board, which manages land to help fund the state’s schools, was scrutinized for all but giving land away. The seemingly sweetheart deal involving Brotman ignited a furor that drew lawyers, lobbyists, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, lawsuits, legislation, appeals – and finally a Colorado Supreme Court order to settle the matter privately.
The question still to be settled is what constitutes just compensation for Brotman?
Having ponied up $1.4 million for the Arrowhead parcel, he has sued the Land Board to recoup his investment after the board backed out of the deal.
It’s a story that is developing more twists and turns than a rabbit dodging a beagle in hot pursuit.
Last week, the Land Board approached Eagle County’s commissioners seeking a portion of the funding for a $10 million conservation easement to keep the controversial parcel from being developed, as well as to settle the simmering issue. The commissioners balked at contributing cold, hard cash for a conservation easement, however, with one of them unleashing a verbal broadside against the entire situation.
“We want to make sure it’s not unjust enrichment of Mr. Brotman at the expense of the Eagle County taxpayers,” said Commissioner Tom Stone, a steadfast opponent of the Brotman purchase. “Brotman’s looking to walk away with a big pile of dough in his pocket. I don’t think the taxpayers of Eagle County should have to pay for something that was a mistake made by a renegade state board.”
The commissioners did encourage the Land Board to pursue transferring the development potential of that land to another parcel of state land near Dowd Junction, where a small commercial development already exists.
“It’s something we’ve never done before,” said the Land Board’s assistant director, John Brejcha.
“They’re trying to be creative to resolve this,” Stone added.
Brejcha said the U.S. Forest Service is interested in acquiring the Arrowhead parcel, but not at the full $10 million price.
In approaching the county, the Land Board may have been eyeing a new funding source – the county’s newly passed open-space tax. But, Stone said, that won’t work because at the price being touted, $10 million, it would tie up the next 10 years of funds generated by the tax.
The State Land Board owns land around the state that it sells or exchanges for income-producing properties to raise money for Colorado schools.
Neither Brotman’s attorney or Brotman could be reached for comment on this story.
Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.