Turnbull ranch land sells for $18 million
Just two days after the county commissioners granted a longtime local ranching family significant concessions from the county’s development regulations, the family sold its ranch for $18 million.Records at the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s office indicate that on Oct. 11, 2002, Tom and Roz Turnbull and their four children split the $18 million among themselves for 2,550 acres they sold near Mount Sopris.The sale closed about 48 hours after the county commissioners agreed to exempt the property from affordable housing mitigation requirements and from changes to the land-use code for the next 20 years. The affordable housing exemption alone is worth several hundred thousand dollars.The property was officially sold to four different corporations ? Ranch I LLC, Ranch II LLC, Ranch III LLC and Ranch IV LLC ? registered in Delaware. But according to Roz Turnbull, the buyer of the property was actually billionaire Leslie Wexner, owner of The Limited clothing store chain.The sale of any parcel the size of the Turnbull ranch was assured to draw attention in local real estate and media circles. But the fact that the county commissioners threatened to revoke the concessions after they learned of the pending sale has resulted in even more headlines than anticipated.The Turnbulls have been ranching in Pitkin County their entire adult lives. Roz Turnbull is a member of the Perry family, which has been running cattle in the valley since the late 1800s. Roz and Tom have been vocal critics of the county’s policy to limit residential development.”That was surprising, that the county did not totally support the sale,” Roz Turnbull said.”If you’re ready to transition a property that’s really special, it’s difficult to find someone who is ready to buy the whole thing and move ahead,” she continued. “But in this case we had someone who was willing to take it on and look after it the way we wanted it looked after.”The Turnbulls began the process of subdividing their ranch last winter, shortly after the county began working on new, restrictive rules for development in rural areas.In February, they subdivided 2,300 contiguous acres into five lots. Each of their four children received title to a parcel of at least 500 acres, and Roz was given title to a remaining parcel of about 300 acresIn May, they received approval for the right to build a 15,000-square-foot home on each of the children’s lots and a 5,750-square-foot house on Roz’s lot.The county land-use code restricts house sizes in most cases to 5,750 square feet, except on lots of at least 160 acres, where 15,000-square-foot houses are allowed.In August, the Turnbulls appeared before the commissioners again to ask for exemption from the affordable housing mitigation requirement that compels developers to either build housing on their land or pay the county a large fee in lieu. They also requested that the development rights with the subdivision in May be good for 20 years, instead of the usual three-year vesting period.Neither the Turnbulls nor their attorney indicated to the commissioners the property was under contract for sale.In late September, Commissioners Jack Hatfield, Shellie Roy and Dorothea Farris granted the affordable housing exemption and extended the vesting period to 20 years. That means whoever owns the property will be able to build 15,000-square-foot homes anytime in the next 20 years, regardless of any changes to the county land-use code.A few days later, Roz announced to the Crystal River Caucus, a neighborhood planning group, that the family was planning to sell most of their property to Les Wexner and his wife. The caucus members, all land owners in the Crystal River Valley, responded with applause. But the county commissioners, who thought they were granting concessions to the Turnbulls, not the Wexners, weren’t so pleased. Hatfield threatened to reverse his vote on the basis that his original decision was made under false pretenses.The Turnbulls and their attorney, Gideon Kaufman, were summoned back to the commissioners’ meeting room on Oct. 9 to explain themselves. Hatfield ultimately backed down and let the concessions stand. Two days later, the Turnbulls sold the ranch to the Wexners.The Turnbull children each received $4 million; Roz received $1.5 million, and Tom was paid $500,000, according to records at the clerk and recorder’s office.Kaufman, who spoke with The Aspen Times yesterday, declined to say how important the extended vesting and exemption from affordable housing mitigation was to the sale.Local real estate broker Heidi Houston, a principle in the firm Houston & O’Leary, said the sale looks like a good deal for the Wexners. She pointed out that a 35-acre lot in Old Snowmass recently closed for $3 million”For 500-acre lots, that’s a pretty good deal,” Houston said. “And each one can be like a real ranch. That’s pretty cool.”In exchange, the Wexners received four 500-acre lots and one 300-acre lot on a contiguous parcel, and about 250 acres separated from the main parcel by a Bureau of Land Management holding. Each lot has a development right that’s good for 20 years. And they are not required to build affordable housing or pay into the county’s affordable housing fund.”The Turnbulls just sold their land for $18 million to the Wexners who are worth billions, and we exempted them for helping out with our affordable housing situation,” County Commissioner Mick Ireland said, shaking his head after learning of the sale price. Ireland was opposed to the affordable housing exemption.”The good thing about the buyers is that they’re going to run the ranch as a ranch. They don’t plan to develop it. They’ve hired Mat to run the place, and they’ve got Tom around to help out with the cattle,” Roz Turnbull said.Mat Turnbull is her son.[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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