July 17, 2013 in Idaho

Auction of Priest Lake cabin sites off

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – Idaho has dropped the auction of three undeveloped lakefront cabin sites on Priest Lake this summer. “Those three were not the ideal locations, after on-site review,” Thomas Felter, the state Lands Department’s manager of commercial and residential real estate, told the state Land Board on Tuesday. The department’s appraiser said it would take six to 12 months to properly market the lakefront lots.

The auction, initially planned for August or September, was designed to give the state a better sense of the market value of bare lots on the lake as it moves toward trading away or selling existing cabin sites.

Appraiser Steven Hall, in a letter to department Director Tom Schultz, wrote, “I am sure you can fully appreciate the impossible task of exposing these lots for sufficient time to allow potential buyers the chance to personally inspect the lots, get financial arrangements made if they have interest and then to attend the auction. These types of decisions are not made in a 30-day window unless the buyer can expect a liquidation price.”

Idaho has rented lakefront lots at Priest and Payette lakes for decades to people who built summer cabins on them. Many of the Priest Lake cabin owners are from the Spokane area, and some families have had their cabins for generations.

But the land is part of Idaho’s endowment, which the state constitution requires to be managed for maximum long-term returns. The largest beneficiary is the state’s public schools.

In recent decades, the state has struggled to increase rents for longtime cabin owners to keep up with market values for lakefront land, amid protests, lawsuits and dissension.

Now Idaho is moving toward getting out of the cabin-site rental business, in which the state owns the ground but its renters own the buildings. A push came from an Idaho Supreme Court decision last summer that invalidated a law protecting the renters from competitive bids at auctions each time their leases expire.

Felter said none of the auctions would be scheduled before next spring.

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