Developer tries to make a killing off the Black Canyon

  • A listing on eBay promotes "a rare opportunity to build a home and operate a business inside a national park, with no connection to the National Park Service"

  Notorious for snapping up private inholdings surrounded by federal land and then reselling them for big profits, Colorado developer Tom Chapman is at it again. Chapman made a name for himself in 1992, when he used a helicopter to carry building supplies for a luxury cabin into a 240-acre inholding within the West Elk Wilderness Area. To stop the construction, the government traded him 105 acres near Telluride for the wilderness parcel, valuing both at $640,000. Chapman then sold the Telluride tract for $4.2 million.

Chapman’s latest project is within the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. TDX, the Atlanta-based developer Chapman represents, purchased the 112-acre property for $80,000 in 1998, a year before Congress designated the area a national park. Although the federal government sued for a conservation easement on the property, Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., demanded the parties negotiate instead.

But TDX grew tired of waiting for the Park Service’s appraisal, says Aaron Clay, Chapman’s attorney. In May, the company listed the property on eBay, an Internet auction site, for $1.24 million.

Although the Park Service might have the cash for the property’s first appraised price of $280,000, congressional approval would be needed to pay TDX’s current asking price, says Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Denver, which is handling the negotiations.

According to Chapman’s attorney, Chapman and TDX simply specialize in marketing undervalued holdings. “A lot of people aren’t interested (in inholdings) because you fight the government all the time,” says Clay. “It takes a certain personality to enjoy that type of fighting.”