Would you be interested in buying your St. George dream vacation home from the Utah State government?
How about leasing your office space in a state-owned industrial park or brand new mall?The state's trading of thousands of scattered school trust land acres for federal properties throughout Utah - the huge land-swap announced by Gov. Mike Leavitt last month - will bring all kinds of new and different opportunities to managers of the state land trust, lawmakers were told Wednesday in several separate meetings.
The land swap, and the increased monies flowing into the trust because of the swap, will forever change the way the trust does business, says trust administrator David Terry.
Some southern Utah representatives had some pointed questions for Terry about the land swap - mainly why weren't lawmakers told of it before Leavitt broke the news in a press conference and what possible justification could there be in giving the federal government 255,000 acres more in land than the state got in return.
Terry said there are two answers to those questions. First, the ultimate swap was about the same deal as the trust has been proposing to feds for more than a year - so the fact that Leavitt and Interior Department officials finally agreed to the swap shouldn't be much of a surprise.
Second, while it's true the state is getting 255,000 acres less, it is still a good financial deal for the trust - for it is getting "value-for-value" in the trades with the option of some day getting mineral lease royalties from now-traded lands in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
In detailing the trade to members of the Utah House Republican caucus, Terry added that within a couple of years the trust land administration may take a new, more aggressive tact in making money for the trust - which by law uses all interest earned on the trust for Utah school children.
As the trust grows from its current $200 million value toward a goal of $1 billion by 2010, administrators may begin moving into commercial real estate development. Some of the new lands earmarked for trading have real development potential.
A block outside Big Water, Kane County, is on a highway going into Lake Powell. There is "prime real estate" just outside of St. George that could be subdivided into residential lots, Terry said.
The prospect that future home buyers and businessmen could be buying or leasing land from the trust is not only a possibility, but a reality.