One Priest Lake cabin site – an acre and a half of lakefront land with a rustic A-frame cabin on it – drew bidding that drove the price 50 percent above the appraisal for the land, up to $760,000.
Another saw bids push the price $33,000 higher than the appraisal, while a third cabin site drew no bids at all. But when it was all over Saturday, Idaho Department of Lands officials said they were pleased with the results: eight of nine lakefront cabin sites auctioned off, netting the state school endowment $4.2 million.
“I think we received good value for the lots that we sold,” state Lands Director Tom Schultz said. “I feel good about that. … We’ve planned, and we’re executing the plan.”
It was the latest move by the state of Idaho to get out of the business of leasing lake cabin sites to people who build and own cabins on them. Over the years, that’s led to big battles over what constitutes fair rent for the ground, with the state Constitution requiring the state to earn maximum long-term returns for the endowment from its management of the lands, and cabin owners complaining loudly about sharp rent increases.
Former Congressman George Nethercutt, who is president of the Priest Lake State Lessees Association, said in August, “I think we fought the battles to get them to do just this.”
Idaho has now sold off a third of its cabin sites at both Priest and Payette lakes; that’s 169 lots auctioned off, generating more than $71 million for the endowment. In late August, 35 Priest Lake lots were sold for $15.6 million. All of those went for the appraised value to the cabin owners, most at just under half a million dollars each.
Saturday’s auction was of lots that the cabin owners didn’t want to keep and have ended their leases. Each owner had found someone willing to bid on the lot and pay an agreed-upon price for the improvements, though anyone could bid. One of those arrangements fell through, resulting in no bids for a 0.86-acre lot with a rustic cabin. Two of the sites had no cabins on them, as the previous lessees had removed their structures rather than continue their leases with the state.
The auction lasted about 40 minutes and drew a crowd of more than 100 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, though only 17 people registered to bid.
The state can’t accept less than appraised value for endowment land. For the sites auctioned Saturday, that ranged from $384,000 to $621,000. The successful bidders get full ownership of the properties, many with sandy beaches and boat docks.
The lot with the rustic A-frame cabin and a scenic stretch of Priest Lake shoreline drew the most spirited bidding Saturday, with three potential buyers.
The Department of Lands has another auction, this time for Payette Lake lots, scheduled for Nov. 13 in Boise. Twenty cabin sites, including both leased and unleased lots, will go on the auction block.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.