ASPEN - The U.S. Forest Service won't target Aspen's holiday crowd with its plan to sell part of its West End land holdings.
The agency's plan to auction off five lots, or about an acre of its Aspen Ranger District property, has been pushed back to at least spring-break time and possibly next summer, according to Kevin Warner, conveyance program manager for the agency. Either way, the Forest Service will aim for a busy time in Aspen to put the prime real estate on the market.
"To me, it doesn't make sense to put it out there in the shoulder season," he said.
Forest Service officials had been gunning for a peak period in the winter tourism season to put the land out for bid, but the internal approval process isn't yet complete, Warner said. In addition, an appeal process will be necessary.
Last summer, the Forest Service sought public comment on the proposed sale of the property. Once a decision memo is published, there will be a 45-day appeal period open to those who submitted comments.
"Early next year is the timeline for putting that decision memo out," Warner said.
Ultimately, the agency intends to offer about an acre of its Aspen property for sale and use the proceeds to fund redevelopment of the rest of its Aspen Ranger District facilities. The cost of rebuilding the complex has been estimated at $9 million to $10 million.
The Forest Service property on the western edge of town currently contains a collection of aging buildings that include a couple of single-family residences for employees, a bunkhouse, a warehouse and the administrative offices/visitor center that sits on the property's most prominent corner, at Seventh and Hallam (Highway 82).
Forest Service officials have indicated that an online auction is the likely approach to offer the five lots individually and the property as a whole. Each lot will measure at least 6,000 square feet.
In September, Scott Fitzwilliams, supervisor of the White River National Forest, told Pitkin County commissioners that the lots won't be sold if the bids don't meet a minimum threshold. The Forest Service intends to test the real estate market with the sale of the Aspen property before attempting to sell other urban-area holdings within the national forest, he said.
Authority from Congress allows the agency to keep the proceeds in the forest and invest in facility redevelopment projects.