A prime piece of undeveloped property in the Animas Valley previously owned by the U.S. Forest Service sold for nearly $1.7 million this summer, but don’t expect to see bulldozers and construction equipment out there anytime soon.
In an interview with The Durango Herald, the owner of the property, Kurt Carter, said he has no immediate plans to develop the property.
“Right now, I have to crunch some numbers, see what the community needs, see what everyone could be happy about going there, and find out what makes financial sense,” Carter said. “I want to do something more beneficial than what I think other developers would do.”
Carter is one of three new owners of the Durango Hot Springs Resort and Spa (formerly named Trimble). But, he said, this venture is not related.
Bidding opened in June for the 20-acre property in question, about 8 miles north of Durango at 373 Trimble Lane, behind the Trimble True Value hardware store. The online auction closed in August with the winning bid at $1,690,000.
For years, the property has been a vacant horse pasture, with a few structures on it, surrounded by luxury subdivisions. The Forest Service a few years ago announced its intent to sell the property, saying it no longer had a use for it.
Carter said he lives in Florida but has ties to Durango that date back at least 25 years.
“I learned how to ski on Purgatory when I was 5 years old,” he said. “I come out there quite frequently; that’s how I found out about the property out there.”
Carter said he’s never developed property in Durango but has been part of projects like banks and offices in Florida.
For the land in the Animas Valley, he sees great potential.
“It’s an impeccable piece of property out there with gorgeous views in every direction,” he said. “Regardless of what’s done on it, it’s a beautiful piece of property.”
Carter said he’s aware of the development pressures in the Animas Valley. Recently, another developer proposed a 28-lot RV park and tavern on 4 acres adjacent to his newly acquired land.
The Animas Valley is one of the only areas in unincorporated La Plata County with zoning. The property is zoned “neighborhood commercial,” which according to county records, carries no “uses permitted by right.”
Instead, there are a variety of possible development options for the property under a special-use permit. That process requires a developer to propose the project to the county and ultimately obtain a special-use permit.
For the Forest Service’s part, the agency has said it will use money from the sale to help fund a new office building for the Columbine Ranger District in Bayfield. James Simino, Columbine district ranger, said previously that process is ongoing.