Gravel pit won’t pop up near Capitol Reef National Park as Utah land officials reject construction company’s bid

(Tribune file photo) Deer are a common site outside of this Capitol Reef campsite as seen here in 2006.

A gravel pit proposed near Capitol Reef National Park won’t be mined under a deal reached Thursday between Teasdale residents opposed to industrial development in their historic town and Utah trust land officials.

A group affiliated with the owners of Red River Lodge, which runs cattle on the land, offered $525,000 for the 120-acre parcel overlooking the Fremont River. At its monthly meeting, the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA, accepted the offer in a 5-2 vote.

“I’m glad we are able to come to a reasonable offer,” said group leader Dave Van Dyke. “We wanted to have the property sit within the general plan with how it’s zoned by [Wayne] County, which is agricultural and residential.”

In accepting Van Dyke’s offer, which aligned with the land’s appraised value, the trust lands board rejected a mineral lease proposed by Brown Brothers Construction Co., the Loa firm that had sought to mine gravel for nearby road projects. SITLA had previously approved such a deal, but it drew a lawsuit from residents in nearby Torrey. They argued extractive operations were not compatible with surrounding land use. But a judge ruled trust parcels are exempt from local zoning and county oversight.

To wash its hands of the matter, SITLA tried to sell the land at auction last October, but no one submitted an offer that met the minimum bid of $790,000.

So the agency entertained sealed offers from interested parties. Brown offered a $50,000 bonus for mining rights, plus $1.10 royalty on each of the 325,000 cubic yards it expected to extract over a 10-year term, or $381,535 total.

That offer couldn’t beat the $525,000 tendered by Van Dyke’s group, which formed a limited liability company called Alexis XI. A newly formed group called Friends of Redrock Utah proposed a conservation lease with an option to purchase potentially worth $625,000.

The board chose to take Alexis XI’s $525,000, which will be added to a trust fund to support the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind.

“I feel we still overpaid, but if you add in what we would have spent in litigation, it is better to just put it in,” Van Dyke said. “We made the decision from a business rather than an emotional standpoint.”

SITLA manages about 3 million acres in trust for public education and other institutions. Twice a year it auctions desirable parcels that it has trouble making money from.

But one potentially valuable parcel will be sold for a low sum without the benefit of an auction because neither SITLA nor any other other owner can do much with it.

The agency announced plans Thursday to sell a parcel that by all appearances should be a cash cow: a 12.4-acre rectangle with about 500 feet of frontage on the busy Snow Canyon Parkway northwest of St. George, a rapidly growing region where the shrinking inventory of undeveloped land fetches a premium.

But the land is effectively landlocked by protected desert tortoise habitat, a developed subdivision and a steep slope leading down to the parkway, just west of Bluff Street, the main road out of town heading north that is also known as State Route 18.

SITLA has accepted accepted an offer of $8,000 per acre, reflecting its appraised value of $100,000 for land that would be worth a lot more if it could be accessed.