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South Mountain 620 parcel up for auction Thursday

By Doug Murphy Staff Writer

The third time could be the charm.

Twice, the state Land Department has tried to auction a parcel of land west of 19th Avenue.

And twice no developer has come forward with the minimum bid of slightly more than $56 million.

At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, developers will have another chance to bid on the land that is zoned for up to 1,300 homes.

Known as the South Mountain 620, the land department hopes to sell the parcel's 521.5 acres of usable land for a minimum bid of $56,001,000. It is located between 19th and 27th avenues and between Pecos Road on the south and South Mountain Park on the north.

The area attracted much controversy over proposed housing densities, transportation and school sites, but an agreement reached in the summer of 2001 quieted the arguments.

The agreement between the land department and the city of Phoenix limited the number of homes to be build and allowed for 245 acres to be purchased for park and open space. Arrangements were also made so a school could be built on the property.

Laurel Arndt, who for years fought to have the land designated open space, now hopes the sale goes through.

The Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee member said she fears the failure to sell the land puts the complex agreement at risk of falling apart or getting lost.

"It worries me that people will change, and the agreement will fall between the cracks," she said at a planning committee meeting last month.

Tempe-based Woodside homes is building houses on 320 acres to the west of the South Mountain 620, between 27th and 31st avenues, and has shown some interest in the auction, but has been turned off by the price.

"I think the reason it hasn't been auctioned is it is a bit on the pricey side," said Paul Gilbert after the last scheduled auction. Gilbert is a land-use attorney with the Phoenix law firm of Beus, Gilbert and Devitt and was at the two previous auctions representing Woodside Homes.

Sales from state trust land benefit education in Arizona.

The reporter can be reached at (480) 898-7914 or by e-mail at dmurphy@aztrib.com.

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