OURAY – If the City of Ouray and the U.S. Forest Service don’t reach an agreement on the city’s purchase of the Ouray Ice Park land by Aug. 27, another year will pass before the land can be sold.
The hitch in negotiations is the price of the land.
The Forest Service appraised the 40 acres it would sell to the city at $870,000, said Liz Mauch of the Ouray Ranger District’s Land and Minerals Department. (That appraisal is much higher than the city’s appraisal two years ago of $247,000 according to City Manager Patrick Rondinelli.)
But Mauch said that while the sale is still in negotiations, “both parties are interested in this happening.” The latest Forest Service appraisal was done by independent appraisers following federal “yellow book” standards, after which the Forest Service appraisers reviewed their work.
Of the price tag, she added: “The city did not agree – it was more than the city anticipated – and [so] we reduced the area to be appraised to 24 acres.”
But the city must pay for the second appraisal, she said, plus Forest Service staff time.
Rondinelli responded that the city did not disagree with the Forest Service appraisal because it was “more than was anticipated,” but rather because the appraisal was based on potential property development that “could not take place.
“The appraiser assumed that the property would be built out to the fullest extent with living units,” he said, which would “not [be] possible under county code.”
Rondinelli said two Ouray County commissioners even met with Forest Service representatives to explain that the appraisal was not accurate, since county codes allow for one dwelling, at most.
“The Forest Service still rejected their input and stood by their bogus appraisal,” he charged.
Another Forest Service condition would require the city to take formal action to prohibit development of lands outside the infrastructure of the ice park, Rondinelli said, although that too is prohibited by the county code.
“We felt the appraisal was not accurate because it made assumptions that could never happen, which in turn unrealistically inflated the value of the property,” he said.
The city has already contacted an appraiser for the 24 acres, paid for survey work, and agreed to a $5,297 deposit for Forest Service staff time to accompany a collection agreement.
The city approved the collection agreement, Rondinelli said, with proposed changes relating to liability and open records requirements, but the Forest Service has not responded yet.
Rondinelli said if an agreement is not reached by Aug. 27, the city could lose its windo to apply for a grant this year from Great Outdoors Colorado to help with the purchase price.
The GOCO grant would help pay for the land, but if this year’s deadline is missed, the city will have to wait until next year to try for GOCO funding to buy the ice park, he said. Mauch could not be reached for further comment.
“I gave up predicting any timeline a long time ago,” Rondinelli said of the process that has been going on for years.
Rondinelli said the Forest Service originally agreed to have instructions for an appraisal by April 1, then extended it to May 1, and then told the city that it had to first sign a collection agreement, which the city submitted on June 8.
Now, he said, the city has been told that once it signs the collection agreement, a Forest Service appraiser will need to research the old city appraisal before issuing any instructions.
“The unfortunate thing is that we were pushing to get this appraisal done in early summer, so that we could get on the GOCO grant cycle, with grant applications due Aug. 27,” Rondinelli said. “Now, due to Forest Service delays, we are in jeopardy of getting in this cycle and may need to now wait until next spring.”