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Scofield cabin owners get details of Matheson's land transfer bill

Pam Juliano reviews the draft of Rep. Jim Matheson's land transfer bill with concerned Scofield cabin owners.

By JOHN SERFUSTINI Sun Advocate associate editor

Cabin dwellers at Scofield's Bolotas subdivision may get a chance to buy property they thought they already owned if Congress can enact legislation for a land transfer from the federal government to individuals.

When that will happen is anyone's guess. Ironically, those who have introduced or plan to introduce bills are members of minority parties in their respective chambers.

Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, both Republicans, introduced their S. 2056 on Feb. 1. That bill made it as far as subcommittee hearings on March 22 and has seen no action since.

Rep. Jim Matheson, the lone Democrat in the state's congressional delegation, plans to introduce his own version in the House, where his party is in the minority.

Last Thursday, Matheson staff member Pam Juliano explained the elements of the proposed bill to citizens who will be affected.

Basically, the legislation intends to make it possible for the Department of Interior to sell land to people who have records in the County Recorder's Office that "purport to convey title" to the property as of Oct. 1, 2011.

The land in question does belong to the Bureau as a result of a land transfer when Scofield Reservoir was enlarged.

However, purported cabin owners have been occupying and paying property taxes on the land and cabins for decades.

Under Matheson's bill, people who have three years to choose the terms of transfer. First, there is a "life estate" provision which would last until the death of the owner or 25 years, which ever comes first. The title would revert back to the government.

A "property interest" option would allow the title to remain in private hands in perpetuity.

The draft also stipulates that the county will be responsible for paying for a federally-approved property assessment and for an environmental assessment of the lands to be transferred.

The property valuation will be for "raw land" only, meaning it cannot count cabins or other structures in the calculations. Once complete, every square foot in the affected area will have the same value.

Existing cabins cannot be expanded beyond their current "footprints," nor can new structures be built on lots that are now vacant.

Juliano told the citizens at the Event Center meeting that it may take some time for a final bill to be sent to the President for signature.

There are differences in the Hatch-Lee and Matheson bill that could require a House-Senate conference committee to iron out if both bills passed in their respective chambers.

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