The public could lose access to 500 feet of Sanders Beach when the Hagadone Corp. renews its lease for its floating golf green.
The corporation’s 10-year lease with the state of Idaho is up for renewal this month, and a deal brokered by then-Gov. Cecil Andrus could be scuttled in the process.
At a briefing session Tuesday for next week’s state Land Board meeting, the Department of Lands staff recommended dropping a provision in the lease that guarantees public access to the beach from city-owned property near 15th Street to a rocky outcropping that marks the edge of The Coeur d’Alene Resort golf course.
The staff was responding to requests from Hagadone Corp. executives.
“They want the option to delete use of the publicly used beach if and when they develop their (upland) property,” said Bryce Taylor, bureau chief for the department’s surface leasing program.
“It was an equity issue,” Taylor said. No other leaseholders in the state have the same kind of provisions in their lease, he said.
After Land Board members questioned the move, Taylor withdrew his recommendation. It’s unlikely the board will make a decision at its December meeting.
“The board is very cognizant that that was a key issue 10 years ago,” Ben Ysursa, chief deputy secretary of state, said after the meeting. “I’m sure there will be some hue and cry from up there. The board is aware of that. … This is one that needs a little more work.”
The original lease provisions grew out of negotiations among the Hagadone Corp., the state and the Kootenai Environmental Alliance, which sued the state over the issue.
“The main issue was the precedent of leasing a large portion of the lake to a private individual,” recalled Ed Javorka, who was involved with the alliance at the time. Concern about lawn chemicals polluting the lake also prompted the suit, he said.
The alliance found an ally in then-Gov. Andrus. Andrus was outvoted 3-2 by a Republican majority on the Land Board, but in researching Idaho law, he found a 1927 water rights law that gives the governor supreme power over the state’s waterways.
Citing the law, Andrus was able to block Hagadone’s plan for the golf green barge until Hagadone agreed to provide public access to the private stretch of Sanders Beach.
Kootenai Environmental Alliance member Art Manley said he thought the agreement was to last longer than 10 years.
“I thought there was a perpetual agreement between Hagadone and the public that as long as the floating green was there and being used, he would allow for use of the beach on his property,” Manley said.
“An agreement is an agreement, one particularly that is in protection of the public interest,” Manley said. “It seems to me it ought to be defended.”
But according to the Department of Lands, the only agreement is the 10-year lease. However, the conditions of the lease are at the discretion of the Land Board.
“We have a different board this time, and they want to take a hard look at it before they make any decisions,” Taylor said.
If the public-access provision is changed, Kootenai County would lose about $8,000 a year which goes to a waterways fund.
Under the current lease, the rent is 2 percent of gross golf course receipts ($39,932 in 1996) or $15,000, whichever is greater.
In exchange for the public access, the Hagadone Corp. gets a 20 percent rebate. The lease also grants 20 percent of the rent to Kootenai County for the development of public boat launching facilities.
Last year, that was $7,986. County Administrator Tom Taggart said the county has collected about $43,000 in the fund but hasn’t decided how to spend it.
The Hagadone Corp. also wants a reduction in the rent.
In a letter to Taylor, Hagadone Corp. Vice President John Barlow said the rent is more than double the anticipated amount.
“Further, the economic benefit to the state of Idaho that the floating green has generated is immeasurable,” Barlow wrote. “It is recognized throughout the world.”
The floating green does bring in more money than any other single commercial lease on Idaho waters, Taylor said. But, at 2 percent, it’s also the lowest rental rate in the state.
“The floating green is unique in every respect,” Taylor said.
Because the lease expires this month, the Department of Lands may have to grant the Hagadone Corp. a temporary extension while the board mulls its options and the staff collects more information.
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