DNRC still exploring development, sale options for Fox Farm parcel

The plan to seek development proposals for about 80 acres off Fox Farm Road is continuing but has been delayed by a month or two.

On Tuesday, Andy Burgoyne, the Helena unit manager for the Department of Natural Resources, updated Neighborhood Council 1 about the process. A handful of local residents and members of the public attended the meeting.

DNRC has initially planned to open the parcel for conservation options in March, but the staffer who was overseeing the project left DNRC and so that has been pushed to April or May, Burgoyne said.

The Fox Farm property is owned by DNRC and is School Trust Land.

DNRC looking at options to develop land on Fox Farm Road

There’s been a concerted effort from the DNRC to address high value parcels that aren’t generating revenue for the school trust, DNRC officials told The Electric last spring.

One of those is the parcel off Fox Farm that is worth an estimated $1.2 million.

The property is bounded by Fox Farm Road on the west, 45th Avenue Southwest on the south, Grizzly Drive on the north, and the Missouri River and Island View Drive on the east.

fox farm boundary Map-page-001

The property is divided into two lots. The northern portion of the parcel is roughly 43 acres with 1,500 feet of Missouri River frontage. The southern portion is about 39 acres with no river frontage.

The property is surrounded primarily by residential development.

The property is currently vacant other than a radio communications tower on the southern end that is under a commercial lease and generating about $3,000 annually for the Montana School Trust Land program, according to DNRC.

The mandate for school trust lands is that the properties make money for the school trust. The property on Fox Farm benefits the University of Montana.

Since the property isn’t generating anything near its value, DNRC is looking at options to add conservation options, develop or sell a portion of the land.

Conservation options are considered first, but if none are proposed through a letter of intent, commercial, residential or industrial development will be considered. No matter the proposed use, the department is required to get fair market value for the land.

DNRC staff said last year that the agency will work with the community to develop conservation options if there’s interest from local groups or individuals. There’s a strict timeline for that process, but that clock hasn’t started yet.

The clock will be starting in April or May.

A local group has created a Facebook page and organized in an effort to conserve the open space but Burgoyne said nothing formal had been proposed and the agency hadn’t heard from any other interested parties yet for the conservation option. At a neighborhood council meeting last November, some area residents said the group was attempting to find grants to help with the purchase of the property.

The north half can’t be sold because of the river frontage, but it could be exchanged for a parcel that is equal or more valuable. That has been interpreted to mean equal or more riverfront on a similar river, Balukas said. Past experience has shown there’s a high bar for such a trade.

The north line is the city-county boundary with major utilities stubbed at this line. The property is currently in the county.

The state received land to the north and east of the property and sold those parcels around 1920. Those areas are now residential.

DNRC staff identified the tract as having significant development potential about 10 years ago and held a public meeting to gauge interest. At that time, a group of local landowners emerged who were interested in maintaining the parcel as open space, but a formal proposal never materialized and the entire project fell by the wayside, according to DNRC.

Commercial leases are available for up to 99 years and are subject to a competitive bid process. All trust land sales are subject to public auction and Land Board approval, according to DNRC.

Got questions, proposals or comments? Send them to Andy Burgoyne by phone 458-33517 or email: jburgoyne@mt.gov.