Clock starts on Fox Farm DNRC property June 3 for conservation interests
The clock is about to start on 80 acres off Fox Farm Road for anyone looking to procure a conservation easement before the Montana Department of Natural Resources moves forward with development options.
Andy Burgoyne, the Helena unit manager for DNRC, updated Neighborhood Council 1 again this week on the process.
Burgoyne said DNRC is opening the process on June 3.
At that point, groups or individuals have 60 days to submit a conservation proposal.
Proposals are due by 5 p.m. Aug. 5.
After that point, proponents have 45 days to submit a formal application for a license, lease, easement, etc.
All official applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. Sept. 20.
Applicants have 12 months from the time their application is received at DNRC to secure proof of funding.
The Forx Farm property is owned by DNRC and is School Trust Land.
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. Burgoyne said the property would be reappraised and conservation easements require fair market value payment for the property.
Several area residents have expressed interest in maintaining the property as open space.
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.
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 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 that the agency will work with the community to develop conservation options if there’s interest from local groups or individuals.
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 group started an online petition to keep it as open space and the petition has about 300 signatures.
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, DNRC told The Electric last spring. 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 458-3517 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.