CONCORD, N.H. – It turns out there isn't a huge market for a $250,000-plus, 100-acre property that may be booby-trapped.
The sale of the compound owned by a now-jailed pair of tax evaders who held off police during a nine-month armed standoff is beset by problems both procedural and perilous: High bidders would have only seven days to come up with the financing for the property they have to buy largely sight-unseen because it could be filled with hidden explosives.
No bidders showed up at an Aug. 15 auction at federal court in Concord, where Deputy Chief U.S. Marshal Brenda Mikelson went through the motions of soliciting a minimum bid of $250,000 on the Plainfield compound where fugitives Ed and Elaine Brown holed up in 2007.
The Browns were ultimately captured by U.S. marshals posing as two of the supporters who thronged the compound.
An auction is also being held for a commercial property owned by the Browns in Lebanon, where Elaine Brown had her dental office. The minimum bid on that property is set at $507,500.
Efforts to sell the two properties have been in the planning stages since 2013. As of this week, Lebanon is owed $286,242 in back taxes for the property; Plainfield is owed $198,908.
Plainfield town administrator Steve Halleran is frustrated by the delays, saying the taxes owed by the Browns' property far exceed any other in town.
"We've been given assurances we're getting our money," Halleran said. "Nothing would speak to that more than an actual check."
Mikelson said talks are underway to possibly hire a professional auctioneer and change the conditions of the sale to give high bidders more time to arrange financing.
"That time frame of seven days is really tight for average people," she said.
Another obstacle: Concerns that booby traps and explosives may be buried on the densely wooded property mean federal officials still won't let interested bidders tour it. Buyers who are prepared to ante up a hefty bid on the Plainfield property have to do it with little access.
During his trial in 2009, Ed Brown testified that explosives in the woods around their home were there to scare intruders, not hurt them. But in a radio interview during the standoff, he said if authorities came to kill him or arrest him, "the chief of police in this town, the sheriff, the sheriff himself will die. This is war now, folks."
Elaine and Ed Brown are in the 70s. Elaine Brown is serving 35 years in prison; Ed Brown is serving 37 years.
Because the only access to the Plainfield property is a narrow right-of-way, it has limited development potential, Plainfield officials have said.
Halleran said he's been willing to let the federal government sell the property, but if it takes much longer, he might invoke a state law that says cities and towns can take possession of a property if the back taxes owed exceed three years.
"We just won't wait another year," Halleran said.