Despite some controversy, 4 trust land parcels sell in Southern Utah to help fund public schools

ST. GEORGE — During its biannual public auction on Oct. 24, the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration generated over $4 million from 17 trust land parcels it sold, including two in Washington County and two in Iron County.

While three of the parcels in Southern Utah were sold without incident, a parcel in Washington County was the subject of some debate.

The a SITLA auction came shortly after the state treasurer announced in September that Utah schools will receive a record $82.66 million in 2019, with 10 percent going to K-12 schools and the rest distributed on a per-pupil basis. SITLA supervises Utah’s 3.4 million acres of land held in trust for 12 state institutions.

Read more: Utah schools to receive record $82M from trust land funds

All proceeds from the auction are deposited into the $2.5 billion permanent endowments for public schools, Miners Hospital at the University of Utah Medical Center, teaching colleges at state universities and reservoirs, according to a press release from SITLA.

However, when a piece of trust land is sold, it isn’t completely out of SITLA’s hands – or benefit. When a trust land parcel is sold, it creates a “split estate,” said Deena Loyola, information officer for SITLA. That means the new landowner owns the surface estate, while the mineral estate is retained by the trust land beneficiary.

“If a landowner discovers oil, the mineral estate holder, SITLA / beneficiary, would be entitled to all revenue from production of the commodity,” Loyola told St. George News.

Listed below are the Southern Utah land parcels sold during the auction.

Washington County

A map shows the location of the LaVerkin land parcel sold by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Association | Image courtesy of the School and Institutional Trust Lands Association, St. George News | Click to enlarge

One of the Washington County parcels sold during the auction was the LaVerkin Parcel, located in eastern Washington County, 2.4 miles east of LaVerkin and 2.6 miles east of Hurricane. It consists of approximately 40 acres and was sold at $250,000.

The other Washington County parcel sold was the Rockville Corridor, located 1 mile west of Rockville. The Washington County Commission purchased the land for $1 million. The commission has said there are possible plans to use the land to build a park-and-ride to alleviate congestion into Springdale and Zion National Park.

However, this sale didn’t happen without a little bit of discontent, which residents of Rockville expressed to Washington County Commissioners the day before the auction.

Read more: Tempers flare as Washington County Commission buys land in Rockville with plans to build park-and-ride

Despite the residents’ concerns, the County Commission went ahead with the purchase on Oct. 24.

At the meeting the day before, Iverson said there were no final plans for a park-and-ride on the land, adding that it could be many years before the county even decides to start work on the project.

“What we’re talking about could be when none of us are still involved,” he said, motioning to the other two commissioners. “We just want to keep this option open for the county. We feel that that’s important.”

The only parcel that didn’t sell in Washington County is the Virgin Corridor, which is located 4 miles southeast of Virgin, and covers around 240 acres. Kyle Pasley, a representative of SITLA residing in St. George, said there’s no specific reason as to why the Virgin Corridor Parcel didn’t sell, but it could have to do with the cost.

The minimum accepted price for the land was listed at $1.26 million.

“We’re mandated by statute that we can’t get less than fair market value,” Pasley said.

“It just ended up being more than I think anyone wanted to spend for it.”

Iron County

The Iron County parcels sold at the auction include Shurtz Canyon and Square Mountain.

An undated photo shows the Shurtz Canyon land parcel sold by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Association | Photo courtesy of the School and Institutional Trust Lands Association, St. George News

Shurtz Canyon, located 7 miles southeast of Cedar City, and below the rim of Cedar Mountain, sold for $150,000. It consists of approximately 80 acres.

Square Mountain is 6 miles southeast of Cedar City, and is surrounded by privately-owned property and BLM property. It was sold for $370,000 and consists of approximately 616 acres.

To learn more about the parcels sold during the Trust Lands Auction, you can visit the SITLA website.

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