Town unable to sell parcel at auction

Robert Galbreath photo Harold Musser presides over Pinedale’s first Dutch auction for the town’s 0.29-acre lot on Pine Street. Also pictured in front, from left, are council members Judi Boyce, Tyler Swafford, Pinedale Clerk-Treasurer Amy Sturman, councilman Scott Kosiba and town staffer Kelsey Thomas.

PINEDALE – An auction hosted by the Town of Pinedale to sell a 0.29-acre, five-lot parcel at 210 W. Pine Street ended on Oct. 12 without a bid.

The sale at the new Pinedale Town Hall followed a descending format, known as a “Dutch” auction. The auction opened at the town’s predetermined maximum price of $500,000 and dropped by $10,000 increments until the price reached the town’s minimum figure of $190,000 without a buyer.

The town hired Harold Musser of Musser Brothers Auctioneers in Cody to conduct the sale. Approximately two dozen people filled the conference room to watch Pinedale’s first Dutch auction.

Gil Winters, a local property owner and potential buyer, spoke to the Roundup about the business community’s hesitation to buy the property at the auction.

The Dutch auction format was unfamiliar to buyers, Winters said. He believed that if the town used a conventional, ascending auction, it would have sold its parcel for at least the minimum price.

Winters said that the deed restrictions placed on the property by the town were unnecessary. The Pinedale Town Council approved deed restrictions in a July 24 resolution, development of the property as either a retail business or restaurant.

“The town offered a neat property for sale with potential, but the deed restrictions were troublesome,” Winters said.

Pinedale contained enough “good places to dine,” Winters remarked. He added that the parcel was not sufficiently large enough to provide a timely return on investment as a retail space. The property could be suitable for other uses like housing – a particular need in Pinedale, Winters said.

The town approached the auction and deed restrictions with care through a “thoughtful, deliberate and public approach” over the course of seven months to “serve the best interests of our commercial and retail district,” responded Mayor Matt Murdock.

Murdock called the property a “unique parcel in the heart of our historic downtown” that was build-ready.

“The primary objective of the Council has not merely been to sell the land, but to further promote growth, quality of life and development of the community,” Murdock added.

Public surveys conducted by the town indicated a “great” demand for additional retail and restaurant development downtown, said Murdock. The surveys influenced the town’s decisions to place deed restrictions on the property, including limitations on housing, office space or manufacturing.

Housing remains a concern, but rentals located on the highway in the “heart” of downtown Pinedale would “change the character” of the area, Murdock noted. The town is exploring other parcels for housing, he added.

A Dutch auction format was chosen to “optimize revenue” while “aligning with buyer preferences,” Murdock remarked. A descending auction can “mitigate the risk” of overpayment when an item’s value is uncertain and improves transparency, he added.

The town will take time to “actively explore alternative options” before committing to the next step for the property, Murdock stated.

“We see growth and potential in Pinedale’s future and are committed to the long-term quality of life and prosperity of Pinedale,” Murdock said. “We’re confident that this parcel’s future remains promising.”