Remember the Interior Department’s ongoing investigation into possible abuses of the Royalty-in-Kind program? Now the department’s Inspector General has started to look into possible abuses by companies seeking to develop renewable energies on BLM land.
Three years ago, BLM received six applications for solar energy projects. In the last year? 130, including one for 300,000 acres from Cogentrix Solar Investments.
The focus of the investigation is renewable energy companies as well as speculators that have applications pending for BLM leases and are seeking to be acquired based on the value of those applications.
According to the LA Times:
Officials said last week that the inspector general’s office of the Department of the Interior was investigating Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar Inc.’s recent acquisition of Hayward, Calif.-based OptiSolar, and its unfinished renewable energy projects, for $400 million.The deal gave First Solar control of what the company described as OptiSolar’s “strategic land rights” to 136,000 acres of public land in San Bernardino, Riverside and Kern counties.
In acquiring OptiSolar, First Solar acquired the lease applications, not the land itself. Those applications are no guarantee according to Greg Miller of the BLM.
“There is no value associated with a mere application, which could be rejected by us for a variety of reasons,” Miller told the Times.
As a result, application approvals for solar energy projects have been suspended while officials sort out what’s going on.
Read more at:
“Renewable Energy Sparks a Probe of a Modern-Day Land Rush,” Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2009.
As previously reported, the Bell Ranch is the largest piece of property for sale in the United States today. At more than 290,000 acres, the massive holding would instantly qualify its new owner(s) for inclusion on The Land Report 100.
But what about the second largest land listing? I did a little digging and came up with a much different type of landholding: the 193,000-acre Split Rock Ranch in south central Wyoming, which is listed with Ranch Marketing Associates.
This is a much different transaction. First off, only 16,000 acres of the ranch are deeded. The rest is BLM, state, and private leases. The second proviso is that the $14 million purchase price is for a 50 percent interest. The remaining 50 percent interest would be owned by a silent partner.
Split Rock is a working cattle ranch and runs 2,400 pair, plus 600 yearlings. It features 12 miles of Sweetwater River on the property. This isn’t the sort of property a weekend warrior need consider.
That’s not to say a little fun couldn’t be had on the property like trout fishing in the Sweetwater or world-class hunting for elk, deer, and antelope.
Yet another twist to a story we’ve been covering out of Park City, Utah.
Last year, the Pivotal Group, developers of the 7,200-acre Promontory Club, threw in the towel and sought bankruptcy protection. At stake was more than $350 million in loans packaged by Credit Suisse as well as a choice swath of 7,200 acres overlooking Utah’s Park City.
In bankruptcy court last month, the Promontory Club failed to sell. Guess who ended up with it? An affiliate of the Phoenix-based Pivotal Group. That’s right: the developer who defaulted on $350 million in loans purchased the property out of bankruptcy. The price? $30 million.
The 7,200-acre property features luxury second homes situated around Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus golf courses and world-class skiing in nearby Park City.
Read more at:
“Bankrupt Luxury Community Sold to Same Developer,” Associated Press, April 17, 2009.
The jury is still out on my definition of dream property, but I’ll tell you this: Montana’s Sun Ranch is definitely in the running.
Nestled on 18,000 acres just outside of Yellowstone National Park in the Madison Valley, the Sun Ranch ranges from 5,700 feet to over 10,000 and is a sterling example of what a true steward of the land can do with a spectacular piece of property. Almost 100 percent of the ranch is protected by conservation easements.
Three creeks – Sun, Moose, and Wolf – nurture more than a mile of the Madison River, which weaves its way through the property. Needless to say the fishing is out of this world. Elk, deer, bear, antelope, and sheep cross this country going to and from Yellowstone. Throw in a beautiful main residence, and this prime parcel is for sale at $55 million. Fay Ranches has the listing.
According to New West,the owner, Roger Lang, is looking to unload the ranch and free up capital for other conservation projects. According to the article, it looks like he has in mind a development similar to what Russ Maytag has done in Colorado at Maytag Mountain Ranch.
Update: According to Chip Miller of NAI Knoxville, the Fort Loudon Lake property sold Saturday morning for $26.5 million to Bryan Testerman of Testerman Construction. That’s $54,000 per acre. Additional details to follow.
Original Post: Nearly 500 acres just outside Knoxville on Tennessee’s Fort Loudon Lake is up for absolute auction this weekend. As long as someone shows up with the $100,000 cashiers check required to bid, there will be a new owner for what tax rolls call the Al Kraemer Farm.
This pristine piece of farmland sits on a peninsula overlooking the popular lake, which sees an estimated two million visitors per year. There are three buildings on the farm. One dates back to 1910, but a newer 3,700-square-foot residence was built in 1983 and has four bedrooms and four bathrooms. The structures are irrelevant, however; the land is prime for development.
“It is the nicest piece of lakefront property in East Tennessee,” says Chip Miller of NAI Knoxville. “It’s in one of the highest growth areas and the demographics of the surrounding area are great.” Miller says he expects “only a handful” of people to make bids on the property. Will the land be sold for development? “Most certainly,” Miller said. The price though is the biggest question mark.
“It could go for $10 million or $40 million. It’s arguably worth $40 million,” Miller said, which equates to roughly $80,000 an acre.
Val Kilmer, star of Top Gun, Tombstone and Willow, has put his 5,970-acre Pecos River Ranch on the market for $33 million. John Watson of Orvis/Cushman & Wakefield has the listing.
The Pecos River Ranch features more than five miles of frontage on its namesake river. Kilmer’s 5,550-square-foot adobe home as well as an 1,800-square-foot caretaker’s home, additional guest homes, barns, garages, and outbuildings are included in the sale.
The ranch is located 8 miles from Pecos, 22 miles from Santa Fe, and 90 miles from Albuquerque.
Kilmer, who is rumored to be considering a run for governor of New Mexico, has owned the property for nearly 15 years. He previously listed portions of the ranch for sale in 2006, but found no buyers.
According to this ABC Australia report, land values around the world are plummeting. The hardest hit country? The Ukraine.
The value of rural land in the Ukraine has plummeted a staggering 75 percent. The Australian news report indicates that the basics of the problem are the same there as everywhere else: thanks to the credit crisis the previously well-lined pockets of investors are no more. The report also references, but does not detail, a 5 percent drop in land values for the United States and Great Britain.
A University of Florida study has put a staggering number on just how badly the economic crisis has impacted rural land values in the Sunshine State. The study concludes that land values plummeted upwards of 55 percent in 2008 from highs just one year previously.
The study focused exclusively on rural land, mostly those outside of urban areas that would have been hot spots for development just prior to the worldwide economic collapse.
“In some cases, it’s almost like a fire sale,” said Rodney Clouser, the UF professor of food and resource economics who led the survey.
The study found the northern part of the state most affected with values dropping the aforementioned 55 percent.
Farmland, that which traditionally would be the main focus of The Land Report readers, saw declines that reached as much as 26 percent.
What’s worse is the predicted continued decline in 2009.
Land prices are expected to continue their drop through 2009 — although not as dramatically as in 2008. Survey responses from individuals involved in the Florida real estate market predict an overall drop between 5 and 17 percent.
The full UF report is available here.
Apparently retirement was just too boring for Lance Armstrong. The seven-time Tour de France winner ended his hiatus from cycling earlier this year and is currently in training for a shot at his eighth Tour title later this year. (Although that training had a setback with a nasty crash a few weeks ago.)
Armstrong’s return to cycling may be the reason why the Texan’s 447-acre ranch outside of Austin has been on the market for a few months. The ranch, according to the popular men’s gadget blog Uncrate, features more than seven miles of mountain biking trails, 1,886 feet of Pedernales River frontage, and ownership in Dead Man’s Hole, a private swimming hole shared by area landowners.
The asking price? $12 million.
Along with the land you’ll get a modestly sized 4,241-square-foot home. The interior, however, is far from modest as it appears more resort living than a home.
Keep in mind if you plan to move there, the neighbors are quick to keep their little corner of heaven in pristine condition. Armstrong found himself in a tiff with his neighbors over Dead Man’s Hole. It cost him $850,000 to clean up the clear-watered retreat after a dam built on his property leaked sediment into the water.
A lot of noteworthy closings taking place in and around Yellowstone County, Montana. Last week we reported on the sale of the 15,800-acre Bar Diamond Ranch. This time around it’s the 6,462-acre Scott Ranch on the Crow Reservation southeast of Billings, which James Stinehagen of the Flying S Cattle Co. purchased for $387 per acre, according to the Billings Gazette. Read more