August 1, 2012 in Idaho

Idaho OKs restrictions for Priest Lake cabin sites

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Betsy Russell photo

Members of the Idaho state Land Board hear from Denny Christensen, president of the Priest Lake State Lessees Association, on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

BOISE - Idaho’s state Land Board voted unanimously today to impose restrictive covenants on state-owned cabin sites at Priest Lake, to ensure that the land use there doesn’t change as some or all of the lots move to private ownership in the future.

A few Priest Lake cabin owners whose cabins are on the state lots objected to the move, saying they didn’t want a homeowner’s association to enforce restrictions in the future, but most backed them.

Denny Christensen, president of the Priest Lake State Lessees Association, spoke in favor of the proposal, while Kaari Burrows Davies, a dissenter, told the board, “We don’t need to now put a homeowners’ association in place that’s going to cause division or wreck a good system that really is working.”

Several other cabin owners submitted emails to the board; one backing the move, from Neil Maris, said, “Please do not let the voices of a few disgruntled lessees influence your decision. They DO NOT speak for us!”

The state is moving toward possible land exchanges to rid the state endowment of the lakefront cabin sites after years of struggle to charge appropriate rents; the endowment is required by the Idaho Constitution to be managed for maximum long-term returns to its beneficiaries, the largest of which is the state’s public schools. The Idaho Supreme Court recently overturned as unconstitutional a state law that protected the cabin sites from conflict auctions when leases come up.

The board, which consists of the state’s top elected officials, held a special meeting today, after it put off the issue at its last regular meeting to request a formal legal opinion from Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. That opinion was delivered, and it found that the board has the authority to impose restrictive covenants on the land; it doesn’t need leaseholders’ consent to do so; and the standard that should govern the board’s actions is its fiduciary responsibility to the endowment’s beneficiaries. State consultants and Land Board staffers said covenants would protect the value of remaining state endowment land in the area once some cabin sites change ownership.

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa made the motion to approve the staff’s recommendation to impose covenants on the cabin lots, citing the constitutional requirement to maximize long-term income for the beneficiaries. “In my humble opinion, I think CC&R’s will do that,” he said. His motion passed unanimously, with all five Land Board members present; in addition to Ysursa, they include Wasden; state schools Superintendent Tom Luna; acting state Controller Brandon Woolf; and Gov. Butch Otter, who chairs the board.

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