Hickenlooper attributed the increase to the fact that smaller parcels are considered more valuable, because they are considered more ripe for development.
“Well in real estate part of the way home builders see it is they buy a large piece of land, a ranch or something like that, and they break it into smaller parcels. The moment you break into smaller parcels you suddenly dramatically increase price.”
Indeed, it was the Mayor and his partner in the deal, Lee Driscoll, who did all the parceling. County records show that Hickenlooper and Driscoll have subdivided the original 660 acres they obtained from the National Forrest Service in 2000 into at least eight separate parcels.
Though the majority of the land is now protected from development through easements they donated to the Nature Conservancy, the designations occurred in eight separate increments from 2002 through 2007. Why? During those years, the continuous parceling of land for conservation easements allowed property owners to maximize the amount they could claim as federal and state tax deductions. Hickenlooper was even able to sell some of those state tax credits to several Denver businessmen. Cases of blatant abuse and concerns being raised by the IRS prompted the Colorado Legislature to adopt tougher rules on appraisals and how the tax credits could be used.
As the below timeline shows, it was the Mayor and his partner’s practice of parceling their property that caused its breakneck appreciation.
January 19, 2000: Lee Driscoll and Hickenlooper obtain 660 acres of US Forest Service land in Park County in a deal to protect the land from development. The appraised value of the land at that time was $884,000, or $1,400 per acre.
December 3, 2002: Approximately 522 acres is divided into three separate chunks with 181 acres deeded to Driscoll, 176 going to Hickenlooper and 167 acres going to a corporation established in both of their names called Bailey Land LLC.
December 26, 2002: Driscoll establishes a conservation easement with Nature Conservancy for 105 acres while Hickenlooper establishes conservation easement on 105.67. A private appraisal now valued the land at $6,000 an acre, according to KMGH 7. He retains 6 acres at the center of the protected property where he could build a home.
September 26, 2003: Hickenlooper establishes a conservation easement with the Nature Conservancy for 70 acres of land while Driscoll establishes separate conservation easements for 76 acres with the Nature Conservancy.
December 27, 2004: About 100 acres of the land owned by Bailey Land LLC is split between Hickenlooper and Driscoll. Both men establish conservation easements on these parcels through the Nature Conservancy.
December 14, 2005: The remaining 70 acres owned by Bailey Land LLC is split, with one parcel going to Driscoll and the other to Hickenlooper’s wife, Helen Thorpe. Driscoll establishes his 35 acre parcel in a conservation easement with Nature Conservancy.
March 12, 2007: Helen Thorpe deeds the 35 acres to both herself and her husband.
December 26, 2007: A conservation easement on the 35 acres owned jointly by Thorpe and Hickenlooper is granted to the Nature Conservancy.
2008: Hickenlooper pays back $52,486 to the Internal Revenue Service.