BRIGHAM CITY -- Missing owners of land in the desolate desert areas of western Box Elder County are behind a massive uptick in the number of tax sales this year.
This year's May tax sale offered 100 properties, compared with only three in 2011. Of that 100 properties, 49 received bids, and Box Elder County Commissioners on Wednesday finalized 37 of those sales.
County auditor Tom Kotter said many of the properties up for sale because of unpaid taxes were west desert parcels.
"With the downturn in the economy, people just didn't want to hang on to them," he said.
Property taxes must be delinquent for five years before a parcel ends up at a county tax sale.
None of the properties up for sale this year had been cited for non-compliance, said Kotter. That became an issue several years ago when Internet scams popped up selling quarter-acre parcels in the west desert. In many areas, a minimum of 160 acres is required for development.
Still, said Kotter, purchasing land at tax sales "is very much buyer beware."
Kotter said many of the former landowners were from out of state.
"Locals know enough about the land to have no interest" in the dry, desolate tracts, he said. "We get phone calls on them all the time: 'Will there ever be development?'
"Not unless there's a nuclear holocaust," he joked. "We even have overseas owners."