The tax sale of several parcels of land has been voided following a Utah attorney general's opinion that Duchesne County failed to follow statutory bidding requirements.

The would-be purchasers of the parcels have been refunded at 10 percent interest and the property has been returned to its previous status, County Attorney Herb Gillespie said."If the owners don't redeem their property," it will be sold again during the annual May tax sale, said Gillespie, who requested the opinion.

Before forfeiting property, certain requirements must be met, including adherence to strict tax-sale methods. The methods designed to protect the financial interests of the delinquent-property owner and meet the needs of local governments require the property be sold to the highest bidder.

But the Duchesne County Commission last May sold several parcels through "preference bidding," in which the bidding process was bypassed, assistant Attorney General Bryce Pettey wrote in the opinion.

Instead, preference was given first to the record owner or his authorized representative, second to others having proof of possessory interests in the property, and third to owners of adjacent property.

"Although preference bidding is often used by counties to expedite tax sales, it has no statutory basis," Pettey said.

The county allowed parcels not sold through preference bidding to be "bid down" to zoning minimums and then accepted bids on the reduced portion of the property, he said.

"While bidding down the size is permitted . . . the statute does not authorize a county to set zoning minimums as a limit on the size down to which a parcel may be bid," Pettey wrote.