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Judge to take second look at Camp Easton fate

An Idaho judge said he’ll review an earlier decision that would have allowed the Boy Scouts to sell historic Camp Easton on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

After a Wednesday hearing in Idaho District Court in Coeur d’Alene, Judge John P. Luster said he’ll re-examine arguments made by residents and Scout families who oppose the potential sale of the camp to an Arizona development company.

In May, Luster denied the group’s motion to stop the Inland Empire Council of the Boy Scouts of America from considering selling the camp to Discovery Land Co. in exchange for a new camp on the other side of the lake.

Luster said then he saw no clear language establishing a permanent trust for the camp when the initial donor gave the Camp Easton land to the Scouts in 1929. Luster also ruled then the plaintiffs didn’t have legal standing – they couldn’t establish harm or damages if the sale went through.

On Wednesday, Luster heard a new set of motions by attorney Kathlene Kolts, who represents the opponents. He agreed to reconsider his initial ruling but gave no indication when he’ll rule.

Kolts argued that Luster should review the initial notes from 1929 when F.W. Fitze, who owned the site, donated the property to the Scouts. Kolts said case law in other states establishes that Fitze’s donation created a charitable trust and that trust law specifies the owner is not free to sell the land.

She specifically argued using a New York state case involving land donated to Cornell University, which was used as a lab. The court in New York stopped the university from selling the land on the basis of a trust, Kolts said.

“Idaho doesn’t have as many cases that point directly to trust law,” she noted, saying Luster has the option of considering cases in other states that don’t contradict Idaho laws.

The opponents of the land sale and swap say Camp Easton is unique and should be preserved in its present location. Some residents near the 380-acre camp also argue Discovery’s plan would inflate property values.

The Boy Scouts council, based in Spokane, said it is concerned about the aging facilities at Camp Easton, and the organization wants to build a modern, safer facility. They also say Discovery is offering to fund a capital endowment to pay for future improvements to the camp and other Boy Scout camps in the district.

Tim McCandless, Scout council executive, said Discovery has not made a formal purchase offer for Camp Easton.

Spokesman-Review publisher Stacey Cowles is a member of the Spokane Scouts executive board.