Steven Hall, of Hall-Widdoss & Co. PC, an appraisal firm based in Missoula, Mont., is briefing the state Land Board this morning on how its new state-owned cabin-site appraisals were calculated. The appraisals defined market value for the lots as a “vacant and unimproved tract.” “Each of these cottage sites was viewed as though no improvements existed – that would be retaining walls, seawalls, docks, decks, structures, garages, patios, that kind of thing,” he said. “We were trying to get it to vacant, unimproved, but not natural state.”
Hall constructed a point system to evaluate the topography of each lot, including steepness, shoreline characteristics, lake depth and more. Every cabin site was inspected and photographed from multiple angles. Cabin site lessees filled out questionnaires. Market conditions, sales in the area, access and other factors were taken into account. “To the degree possible, I believe that the appraisals are error-free,” Hall said. “I believe that the appraisals stand on their merit.”
The values matter because they’re the basis for calculating rents that cabin owners pay for the ground under their cabins, and also for auctions or other steps the state might take to get out of the cabin-site renting business, a path the Land Board has been attempting to pursue. The lakefront lots are part of the state’s permanent land endowment, which is required by the state Constitution to be managed for the maximum long-term return to the endowment’s beneficiaries, the largest of which is the state’s public schools.