Got $68M? State Trust Land auction Aug. 20 for 2,700 acres south of Apache Junction

By Richard Dyer
Twitter: @RHDyer
Posted 6/25/20

Only bidders of at least $68 million will be allowed to participate in the Aug. 20 state Trust Land auction of 2,783.13 acres south of Apache Junction and north of Queen Creek.

“By statute, …

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Got $68M? State Trust Land auction Aug. 20 for 2,700 acres south of Apache Junction


Only bidders of at least $68 million will be allowed to participate in the Aug. 20 state Trust Land auction of 2,783.13 acres south of Apache Junction and north of Queen Creek.

“By statute, state Trust Land cannot be sold for less than its appraised fair-market value. The $68 million represents the full appraised market value of the land,” Dave Cherry, public information officer for the Arizona State Land Department, said.

K-12 schools would be the beneficiary of the sale of the land in the area called Superstition Vistas, which is between Elliot and Ray roads and from Meridian east about 2 miles.

“The development and potential growth envisioned in Superstition Vistas aligns perfectly with the interests of the beneficiaries,” Arizona State Land Commissioner Lisa A. Atkins said. “ASLD has spent three years analyzing the growth and development potential in the East Valley and pursuing the right environment before bringing this parcel to auction. We are excited at what the future holds in Superstition Vistas.”

The auction and sale of the land brings the potential for industries and other businesses to locate there, Janine Hanna-Solley, economic development director for the City of Apache Junction, said.

“The process of state land being auctioned for private development is significant for Apache Junction,” she said.

“Currently, we are limited in land options for industries to consider expansion into Apache Junction due to existing zoning and surrounding land uses, small- or irregular-sized parcels lacking necessary infrastructure to support industry, the community’s desire to preserve the ‘rural’ nature and open-space assets in the north part of town, and land ownership limitations --- much being owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management or the state of Arizona,” Ms. Hanna-Solley said.

“By getting larger swaths of ‘vacant land’ out to the private marketplace south of the freeway, new investment can more easily occur as part of a masterplan which has the potential to accommodate more industry and employment/job centers,” she said.

State Trust land

The Arizona State Land Department manages approximately 9.2 million acres of State Trust lands within Arizona. These lands were granted to the state under the provisions of the federal Enabling Act that provided for Arizona’s statehood in 1912. These lands are held in trust and managed for the sole purpose of generating revenues for the 13 State Trust land beneficiaries, the largest of which is Arizona’s K-12 education, according to

The Arizona State Selection Board in July 2019 approved the annexation of 6,687 acres of state trust land into the City of Apache Junction. The vacant property is south of Elliot Road, west of the Central Arizona Project canal and north of where State Route 24 is to be constructed.

State Land Commissioner Atkins requested approval of the annexation in T1S R8E Sections 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 and 34, all in Pinal County, according to the minutes of the selection board’s July 17 meeting.

At its Aug. 7 meeting, the Queen Creek Town Council approved the annexation of nearly 4,150 acres of State Trust Land from Germann Road north to the future alignment of State Route 24 and the Central Arizona Project canal west to Meridian Road. The Arizona State Selection Board approved the town’s annexation of the property at a meeting June 11, 2018.

When State Route 24 is constructed east from Ellsworth Road to Ironwood Drive, it will be the dividing line between the municipalities of Apache Junction and Queen Creek.

“The extension of the SR24 through the state Trust Land provides an opportunity for Queen Creek to create an additional employment corridor. Companies evaluating new or expansion locations look for sites that are in close proximity to key transportation corridors,” Doreen Cott, Queen Creek’s economic development director, said.

“In addition, freeway interchanges are prime locations for retail development that require freeway access and visibility. The Arizona State Land Department and the Queen Creek Specific Plan approved for this area include a balance of land uses, with residential and freeway-activity nodes that will maximize accessibility for the attraction of high-quality employers and retail uses, and offers significant opportunities for economic development prospects. The SR24 and the connection to Queen Creek’s north/south arterials will also improve regional transportation,” she said.

Auction process

The auction --- where sealed envelopes with the bids can be delivered --- is 1 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20, in the Ironwood Room at the Historic 1891 Courthouse, 145 N. Pinal St. in Florence.

“On Aug. 20, interested bidders must submit a sealed bid. If there are two or more ‘qualified’ bids, an auction will take place two weeks later at the same location where only the ‘qualified’ bidders approved by ASLD will be permitted to bid,” Mr. Cherry, of the Arizona State Land Department, said. “If on Aug. 20 there is only one ‘qualified’ bid, the parcel will be awarded to the ‘qualified’ bidder one week later.”

Additional bidding, if necessary, must be made in minimum increments of $100,000 and will be conducted orally, according to auction documents.

The beneficiaries are listed as “county bond permanent common schools (indemnity selections)” in auction paperwork.

“‘County Bond’ and ‘Indemnity Lieu Selections’ are both identifiers for the K-12 schools beneficiary,” Mr. Cherry said.

“While the bulk of State Trust Land parcels were granted to Arizona at statehood, some were acquired through exchanges with the federal government where STL was needed for a federal purpose. The ‘County Bond’ and ‘Indemnity Lieu Selections’ identifies parcels in the trust portfolio received through value-for-value exchanges with federal agencies,” he said.

Site study

The 2,783.13 acres to be sold at auction is mostly vacant desert land with sparse vegetation used for cattle grazing, according to a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment conducted by GeoTek Residential LLC.

There are two developed areas in the southeast section of the site --- an East Valley Aviators area used for flying large model airplanes and helicopters; and a cattle pen area used by a cattle rancher leasing the eastern half of the site and additional land around the site, according to the Environmental Site Assessment.

Recreation-activity areas were also observed, according to the report.

“We observed some indications of recreation driving and shooting in some areas of the site. We observed an area of broken clay targets in or adjacent to the southeastern section of the site,” the report states.

Aviation club lease

The remote-control planes club could seek an extension of its lease with the new property owner or move to another location, Sid Frede, president of the East Valley Aviators, said.

The club, which has a membership of approximately 200 members, has had a lease with the state Land Trust since 1996 on the property, he said.

“We received a notice from the state Land Trust late last year that the property was being considered for sale and that our lease would be nullified upon sale. We would be required to vacate the property prior to the sale. These were conditions outlined in our lease upon a sale of the property,” Mr. Frede said.

“We have been very fortunate to have occupied this site for a considerable time. It has been an excellent location and East Valley Aviators is well known throughout the modeling community for its facility and support of our hobby. We hold several major competitions at our site and competitors travel from all over the Southwest, Northwest, Midwest, and a few from the east coast to participate in our events,” he said.

The major competitions include one in January with large-scale, precision aerobatics; and one for pattern fliers.”For more information, go to, and

Three major considerations for a new East Valley Aviators site, Mr. Frede said, are:

  • Significant distance for airport-controlled airspace/flight paths.
  • Significant distance from anticipated development to allow longevity for at least 10 years.
  • Close enough to allow current members reasonable access.

“Our club has identified a potential site on state Land Trust land SE of our current location. We have Google-mapped this location --- approximately 11 acres --- and presented the information to the state Land Trust. We hope to be able to negotiate a new lease for this site,” Mr. Frede said.

“It would be easy to establish a new lease, with similar terms and conditions of our existing lease, for this new location. We have a flawless history with our current lease and we are a known entity and good steward of the land. We hope to have conversations with the state very soon to discuss,” he said.

“This proposed site above would satisfy all criteria. There is very little opportunity for an independent site that would satisfy this criteria outside of the state Trust Land under consideration. If East Valley Aviators is unable to negotiate a new lease with the state, we will probably have to disband the club,” he said.

The club is interested in extending its lease with a new owner, he said.

“Until the purchase is made and the buyer identified, we are unable to address the new property owner with a request for a lease extension. We could probably operate at the current site for at least a year before development would begin, but we would still need to prepare for a more permanent solution,” Mr. Frede said

“We have no idea if the eventual buyer would have interest in extending us a lease. I am hopeful that this will occur. We will pursue this avenue when available. This however, would only be a short-term solution. Our goal is to establish a new lease with the state, and move to a new site as quickly as can be arranged,” he said.

Future plans for the area

The Apache Junction City Council has identified a number of industries for the land to be auctioned Aug. 20 that will position Apache Junction to have a balanced live/work/play environment, Economic Development Director Hanna-Solley said.

“One of the things we have heard over and over again in the community survey is the desire to enhance the local economy by adding more local living-wage jobs. A large percentage of our workforce leaves the community to commute to jobs outside the city,” she said. “Adding developable land, especially land adjacent to future transportation corridors, will give Apache Junction a chance to have more sites and opportunities to pursue development prospects and major employers to our area.”

A good balance of land uses is optimal, she said.

“What’s important to note in the upcoming auction is that the purchaser of the land will very likely have an idea of what type of land use and zoning they will be seeking from the city. We won’t know what that request looks like until there is a successful bidder that acquires the land,” Ms. Hanna-Solley said.

“Once that happens, the owner(s)/developer(s) will work closely with our planning and zoning and City Council to ensure what is being proposed is a good balance of land uses that supports what our community has identified as part of the General Plan --- a component of which includes economic development projects,” she said.

The land to be sold has access to freeways --- U.S. Highway 60 to the north and the future SR24 to the south --- and is close to the regional airport, she said.

“In economic development, we are very excited to consider what opportunities will emerge as we add thousands of acres to our development landscape,” Ms. Hanna-Solley said.

“The proximity to existing and future transportation corridors, easy access to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, the development of master plans to add infrastructure and capacity and an existing workforce with a preference to work closer to home are all factors that will positively influence prospects considering where a future expansion makes sense for them,” she said. “We’re confident it will expand greatly the exposure and opportunities for quality and balanced growth in Apache Junction.”