Proposed land swap now involves Minturn property | VailDaily.com
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Proposed land swap now involves Minturn property

Cliff Thompson

What once was a controversial, lawsuit-studded, three-way land swap involving two prime, 640-acre parcels of land in the Edwards apparently has become more appealing to the parties involved.

With a bit of creative deal-making, the State Land Board is proposing trading two smaller, developable parcels of U.S. Forest Service land near Minturn for the two Edwards parcels that would be given to the Forest Service. The state agency testing the waters for the proposed deal with local governments.

So far the reception has been good.

“A workable solution’

Commissioner Tom Stone, a vocal opponent of the original land deal, said Wednesday the new proposal makes more sense.

“It’s a workable solution for all parties,” he said. “This is going to take a while to play out. The parties have to go through the regular Forest Service appraisal process.”

The State Land Board announced in 1996 it would sell the two 640-acre parcels to part-time Beaver Creek resident Robert Brotman for $3.2 million – a price some say screamed of a sweetheart, below-market-value deal cut by a “renegade” state board. Brotman said he wanted to develop 18 multi-million-dollar, 35-acre homesites on one parcel next to Arrowhead. To acquire another, adjacent parcel, he offered to trade yet another piece of land north of Interstate 70.

That deal, criticized by everyone from neighbors to the Colorado Attorney General and the Eagle County School District, finally was settled by the Colorado Supreme Court, which left it up to the Land Board and Brotman to determine what would be “just compensation” for Brotman.

“Just compensation’

The Minturn deal, according to the participants, meets that definition. It proposes trading 8.8 acres at Dowd Junction, home to the current Holy Cross Ranger District Office, plus 14 acres south of Minturn, near the Maloit Park turnoff, for the land in Edwards.

The Land Board, said Deputy Director John Brejcha, could make money for the state’s school trust by leasing out the traded land.

The Forest Service announced earlier this year it will be consolidating the administrative offices for the Eagle and Holy Cross districts, but has not announced a timetable for doing so.

One of the parcels in Edwards would be traded on a fee-simple basis; the other would be protected from development by a conservation easement.

Both developable parcels are within Minturn’s town limits, and what type of zoning they carry will determine their valuation.

$12.8 million

A recent valuation of the 640-acres near Arrowhead, conducted by the State Land Board, put its value at $12.8 million. That valuation has not yet been reviewed by the Forest Service, however. The Minturn parcels will need to be near in value to that in order for the deal to work.

The Forest Service is required to trade parcels of equal value. It trades land to smooth out boundaries that create land-management headaches. One of the Edwards parcels in the Brotman deal is surrounded by Forest Service land.

“How much can be developed and what can be developed remains to be determined,” said Minturn Planner Russ Martin.

Any development proposal would be subject to review by the town of Minturn and its residents.

History of a proposal

– 1996 – State Land Board agrees to sell two 640-acre parcels astride the Eagle River Valley in Edwards for $1.4 and $1.8 million, respectively, to part-time Beaver Creek resident Robert Brotman. Brotman says he wants to swap the parcel north of Edwards for public land near the second parcel southwest of Arrowhead and develop 18, 35-acre properties. The agreement is reached on the eve of a change in the makeup of the State Land Board as Colorado voters prepare to stop such deals forever.

– Dick Scudder, a neighbor who owns MediaNews Group, the holding company for the Denver Post, sues the State Land Board for not following due process, claiming it rushed the deal through before the makeup of the board changed. The land is sold below market value, but the property and transaction were not properly advertised in a local newspaper, Scudder charged. Scudder offers $3 million for the parcel nearest him. Too late, the Land Board says.

– 2001 – Gov. Owens and Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Greg Walcher nix the deal after public outcry over the swiftness and mechanics of it and the potential for development in areas where none had been planned.

– 2001 – A bill allowing Eagle County to put the parcels under a conservation easement is killed by the state Legislature.

– 2001 – The Eagle County School Board sues Brotman, with Scudder agreeing to pay legal expenses for the school.

– 2002 – State Land Board votes to void Brotman’s contract.

– 2002 – Brotman sues the Land Board, claiming it reneged on the contract.

– 2003 – After the suit rattles through district and appellate courts, the Colorado Supreme Court orders a settlement.

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Cliff Thompson can be reached at 970-949-0555 x450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com


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