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Home » Rockies » Montana » Western Montana » Bozeman » Proposed Ameya Subdivision Shrinks, State Land Dealings Continue
Wade Dokken, left, and Park County Commissioners Jim Durgan, middle, and Dick Murphy, right, at a site visit to the Ameya Preserve in September 2006. Photo by David Nolt.

Proposed Ameya Subdivision Shrinks, State Land Dealings Continue

The proposed Ameya Preserve vacation home subdivision south of Livingston, Montana, just became substantially smaller after developers recently sold about 4,000 acres to a neighboring property owner. The project, which co-founder Wade Dokken describes as a “private national park,” will now include about 5,700 acres.

Dokken says the sale to candy tycoon Giorgio Perfetti (think Mentos, “the fresh-maker”) came at his behest, but Dokken told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle the deal also conveniently erased Ameya’s debt and interest costs.

Though their property shrunk, the developers say they are still planning to sell about 300 homesites. Co-founder Jaime Prieto says their homesite reservation numbers are “on target,” but would not reveal numbers or prices. A coveted spot in the Neiman Marcus 2007 Christmas catalogue listed a homesite at Ameya for $2.3 million.

NewWest.Net’s David Nolt explored the case of the Ameya Preserve in late 2007 in the five-part part series below.

Also pending is the potential sale of two state sections of land within Ameya property. The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation is still deliberating on whether or not to sell the sections, which contain valuable elk winter range. The potential sale to Ameya via the Montana Land Banking Program drew significant opposition, which was reflected in letters to the editor in the local daily paper and a heap of letters to the DNRC and Montana Land Board. However, a recent visit to the project’s file reveals friends of Ameya have been busy trying to woo the DNRC and Land Board to support the sale, which is obviously still crucial to Ameya’s overall plan.

On January 14, 2008, Dokken wrote Garry Williams of the DNRC about the sale. Dokken spoke of a proposal apparently made by Tom Lemke of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP).

“In our last conversation, you asked us to consider a request from FWP,” Dokken wrote. “If we understand correctly, they have offered to write a letter of support for the land banking sections nominated by the State of Montana of which we are the leaseholder, contingent upon us waiving future development rights on private property we now own to the west and north of Section 18.”

Lemke and Williams were unavailable for comment by the posting of this story, and there is no record of the proposal or discussion in the project file. Dokken clearly does not support Lemke’s proposal and was quick to point out in the letter that he plans to voluntarily place development restrictions on approximately 74 percent of the sections, if purchased, including planned development restrictions on about 80 percent of the entire property. Dokken laid out a list of questions for the DNRC, starting with, “How many additional acres of our private property is the DNRC asking us to place development restrictions on, and where exactly are they located?”

Williams responded, “I have not calculated the acreage to which development restrictions would be placed. However, your engineers developed the plan and could provide that information.”

In the letter Williams reminded Dokken the DNRC took plenty of heat over what many deemed an insufficient Environmental Analysis on the potential sale, and he also emphasized the unique elk winter range habitat value of the sections. According to Craig Campbell at the DNRC’s Trust Land Management Division in Bozeman, the agency is still working on a revised EA that will include alternatives to “sell” or “don’t sell.”

Beginning in January 2008, the DNRC and Montana Land Board received 23 letters supporting the sale of the sections to Ameya. Most letters were from Bozeman and Gallatin County residents, including letters from the presidents of Stonehenge Granite and Allied Engineering. Allied has done extensive work for Ameya, but are not prohibited from commenting on the project. A letter of support also came from Park County resident David Haug and family. Haug owns land adjacent to Ameya property and also abstained from voting on the Ameya project as a member of the Park County Planning Board. Haug was not available for comment on why he abstained from voting.

When asked if Ameya prompted the letter-writers, Prieto only responded, “Ameya Preserve has many supporters in the local area and throughout the state who recognize the economic benefits of the project and land sale. We are grateful for their support.”

In Dokken’s January letter to Garry Williams, he indicated Ameya would be seeking final plat approval for Phase One in the first quarter of 2008. The developers will also have to seek a variance for their road width or go back to the drawing board on their design, which does not meet county standards. Prieto did not comment on whether or not they would seek a variance.

In the meantime, Dokken and Prieto have apparently repositioned themselves without debt in a tricky market.

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