State officials are awaiting approval from San Juan County officials before proceeding with a subdivision development plan for nearly 260 acres of school trust lands near La Sal.

The proposed subdivision, 18 miles east of La Sal Junction, is a pilot project the Utah Division of State Lands and Forestry has dubbed "Woodlands at La Sal."The project encompasses 258 acres of juniper woodlands in a valley setting divided into 14 lots of 10- to 40 acres, said Dick Mercer, marketing specialist for the State Land Board.

Mercer and other state land officials explained the proposal in Moab last week at a public auction of lands in Grand County. The plan was also presented Jan. 14 to San Juan commissioners. Mercer said the subdivision project, developed over the past year, is at an elevation of about 7,000 feet and intended for cabin-site development.

Doug Fullmer of Moab, southeast Utah area land specialist, presented a plat of the proposed subdivision area for commission approval, which officials anticipate this month.

Mercer said the land is to be sold at auction the first week of June.

"This is one of the most beautiful pieces of land I've ever seen. It's heavily wooded with pinyon and high enough to have ponderosa. Tests show the soil is OK for septic tanks," he told prospective buyers in Moab.

He said San Juan commissioners passed the plan on to the county attorney to review for compliance with county zoning laws. "In two weeks, we hope for final approval," he said. "This will provide a way for folks to come in and buy - or at least bid on - a piece of property without going through the application process. I'm hoping it'll sell out in a day."

Usually, trust lands are put up for sale in competitive bidding nine months to a year after an applicant has requested acreage for purchase, and the state has determined through an analysis and comment process its sale is the best way to realize the property's value.

A different approach is being taken to dispose of the La Sal property. For one thing, the application process was eliminated. Also, the property will be offered at auction in a random drawing of lots from a hat instead of a sealed-bid process.

The appraised value of the property by a Salt Lake firm is also being disclosed up front. Mercer said each lot has received a separate valuation, but generally they have been appraised at $700 an acre, depending on assets.

The preliminary gross appraisal for the project is $176,000.

Mercer said bidders will be provided a listing of deposit amounts required on particular lots. If the buyer loses out on his first choice in a certain category, he will get a chance at his second choice of lots in the same manner.

The marketing specialist encouraged bidders to have a broker or real estate agent represent them at auctions if they prefer, as nothing prohibits "bird-dogging" for clients.

"This is a pilot project to see if this kind of thing will really work," Mercer said.

"We have fretted a good deal about covenants, restrictions and conditions . . . and we think we have a way to prevent a messy, single-wide (mobile home) out there," he said. "After nine months, it must conform to the uniform building code, so we're trying to control that, and debris and garbage and everything else."

Kevin Carter, manager of the trust and asset unit for the State Land Board, said the state reserves mineral rights on property sales, but a property owner can acquire lease control of mineral rights upon submitting an approved plan for a mining operation, with provision for restoration.

Carter said the federal government prohibited the state from selling its mineral rights when it granted the trust lands to Utah upon statehood.

According to the Utah Enabling Act, the lands were to be administered in trust to provide economic support for public schools and other education and health-care institutions.