Value of Eagle County ranch under investigation |

Value of Eagle County ranch under investigation

Melanie Wong
Vail CO, Colorado

BURNS, Colorado ” The state is reviewing the appraised value of the Gates family’s 740-acre ranch after a complaint was filed challenging the final value of the land.

A $3.4-million deal to make the family’s ranch a conservation easement, ensuring that it remains open space forever, was completed in late December. Eagle County contributed $2.1 million in open space funds, Great Outdoors Colorado made a $600,000 grant, and the rest came from private donations.

However, critics of the deal said they did not think public money should be spent on land so far from the valley corridor, and argued that an appraisal of the land overstated the value.

The Gates Ranch appraisal was done by Peterson Appraisal Company in Lakewood, who also appraised Bair Ranch, another ranch that was preserved in 2004 with open space money.

Avon resident Debbie Buckley filed a complaint about the appraisal to the Colorado Division of Real Estate, and Peterson Appraisal’s work will be reviewed by an investigator.

“The money could be better spent where it affects the most people. We should look for a deal that strikes a balance between preservation and public recreation,” Buckley said at the county hearing about the ranch.

After the investigator researches the claim, they can either dismiss the case based on insufficient evidence, or refer it to a state board for further action, said Mike Dunbar of the Division of Real Estate.

“This is a very contentious issue,” said David Peterson of Peterson Appraisal Company. “But we appraised it right, and I’m confident it will not be challenged by the Division of Real Estate.”

However, the review will not affect the status of the Gates deal, said Cindy Cohagen of the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

Cohagen said Peterson is one of the “finest appraisers in the state.”

“My view is that he was turned in because someone didn’t like it,” she said.

Nathan Nottingham, whose family owns the land neighboring the Gates Ranch, questioned the value of the Gates’ land. The Nottinghams had their own land appraised, and the value came out well below that of the Gates’.

“This is entirely over-valued,” Nottingham said of the Gates appraisal.

The complaint does not change Great Outdoors Colorado’s position on the ranch, said Communications Director Chris Leding. Based on concerns before the deal was made, the organization had an outside appraiser look at the land, too.

“He came back with minor changes, but still confirming the original appraisal,” she said. “We were comfortable with the results.”

Eagle County has not made a decision on whether or not the investigation affects the county’s contribution, said Communications Director Justin Finestone.

“We will, of course, wait for the results before deciding if its pertinent to the open space grant,” he said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or

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