State OKs sale of 230 acres of prime Pasco real estate

A chunk of prime Pasco real estate is back on the auction block after no buyers stepped forward to snatch it up last year.

The state Board of Natural Resources authorized the sale of more than 230 acres of vacant state trust land in Pasco earlier this month.

The five parcels range from 21 to 103 acres and are valued at more than $5.5 million collectively, according to the state. The parcels are residentially zoned and located south of Interstate 182, between roads 68 and 84 and Argent Road. Chiawana High School is just south of the property.

The minimum acceptable auction bids will range from $680,000 to just over $1.2 million based on a recent appraisal.

The state may have priced the land too high last year, said Bob Redling, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources.

The minimum acceptable bids last year ranged from $512,000 to $2.66 million, but the 230 acres were divided into nine parcels compared to five parcels this time around, Redling said.

“This area needs to have a major arterial through it and developers might have to do it. It might fall to them and we didn’t build it into the price,” he said.

State-owned since statehood

Pasco officials say the state should have released the land back to the city years ago.

“If the city limits were an archery target or a target of some sort, this property would be at the bull’s eye. It’s right in the middle,” said Rick White, Pasco’s community and economic development director.

Because the property has been owned and managed by DNR for 127 years — since Washington became a state — Pasco, population 70,560, has grown up around it.

“It should have been developed 10 to 20 years ago,” said Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins. “It puts a kink in city services because the city has to plan for services around it and it’s inefficient.”

The land also interrupts Chapel Hill Boulevard. The city has been trying for years to secure grants and funding to connect the road and will continue to do so, White said.

Future developers will be required to pay for extending city services, including the road, to the site as a condition of development.

“The city has been asking us for several years to develop it or sell it. Because for very practical reasons, the city needs to develop it. Once it’s sold, it’ll be on the tax rolls,” Redling said.

New auctioneer

The state authorized Musser Bros. Inc. to conduct the auction, which is set for Nov. 17 in Pasco. For information about the property and auction, visit mbauction.com/auction/prime-residential-development-property.

“We have our fingers crossed it will be a successful auction,” Redling said.

White is cautiously optimistic, saying dropping the price and hiring Musser Bros. is a good first step. But he fears potential buyers may be worried about the road and utilities. “I don’t know if the asking price has been reduced to overcome those uncertainties, but I’m hopeful that it has,” he said.

The sale also would be good news for the state.

“The sale of this valuable property will generate money we can profitably use to buy other revenue-producing land,” said Peter Goldmark, commissioner of Public Lands, who also chairs the board and supervises the state Department of Natural Resources. “The new property will be managed to create sustainable revenue for Washington public schools.”

That’s important to Pasco too.

“We want to make sure the DNR gets the price it can because the DNR property is massive funding for schools across the state and Pasco always is in need of funds from that,” Watkins said.

The Department of Natural Resources leases millions of acres around the state and uses the income to support public school construction statewide.

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