More than 300 people who rent their Priest Lake cabin sites from the state of Idaho could get a chance at owning the land they lease.
Idaho’s Land Board on Tuesday gave approval to the idea of a three-way land swap that would allow a few Payette Lake cabin owners to buy their sites.
Gov. Phil Batt, who chairs the board, said he thought the idea might work for all the state’s cabin sites - Priest Lake included.
“It’s so difficult for the state to charge market rates for leases that I think any responsible way to get out of that business would make sense,” Batt said after the meeting.
The state doesn’t want to give away any of its assets, he cautioned. But, he said, “It’s incumbent upon the board to consider the economic investment people have made in the sites.”
Idaho has 355 cottage sites at Priest Lake leased by individual cabin owners. It has 241 at Payette Lake, near McCall, Idaho.
The lakefront cabin sites have become increasingly valuable over the years.
Some have stayed in the same families for generations. Others have changed hands.
The buildings on the sites range from rustic cabins to lavish vacation homes. Many are owned by Spokane residents.
The board voted unanimously to give conceptual approval to a swap proposed by Evergreen Forest Products.
The timber company would trade the state 500 acres of lucrative timberland, in exchange for about 2,800 acres of state-owned grazing land plus three or four Payette Lake cabin sites. The exact amount of land involved would be determined after appraisals to make sure the state gets equal value.
The trade would be contingent on Evergreen then selling the state land to those who now lease it, at the appraised price.
The state grazing land was described as “scattered, relatively unproductive and difficult to manage,” by state Lands Department staffer Perry Whittaker.
State Auditor J.D. Williams said the state makes far more money off its timber land than its other types of land.
State lands are managed to benefit public schools.
Jon Steele, who represented Payette Lake cabin owners at the meeting, told the board he’d like to see a broader exchange program for all cabin owners.
Perhaps cabin owners could find and acquire land the state might want, and initiate their own exchanges, he said.
Board members said they liked the idea.
Idaho doesn’t want to sell the land directly, because the education endowment fund would fare better with land that would produce a long-term source of income rather than a one-time shot of cash.
Batt said if Idaho decided to trade the land, the public interest would be protected by demanding that the land the state receives match the cabin sites in appraised value.
Attorney General Alan Lance also said the state should take care not to close off public access to the waterfront by trading it all away.
, DataTimes MEMO: IDAHO HEADLINE: Renters may get chance to buy cabin sites
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