The Idaho Land Board continues to struggle with how to maximize leases for cabin-on-the-lake property.
Before Christmas, the board extended leases for hundreds of homes on state-owned cabin sites at Payette and Priest lakes in northern Idaho. Questions about the leases surfaced nearly a year ago.
The property is under the control of a group made up of Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, State Assessor Ben Ysursa, State School Superintendent Tom Luna and State Controller Donna Jones.
The group has struggled – even in court – to get a clarification on the issue.
Proposals to increase leases amounts were met with staunch rebellion by the current leaseholders.
One proposal would have raised cabin rents by 9 percent in 2011 and by 54 percent over the next five years. Another proposal included a sell of more than 520 vacation cabin lots identified as “auction property.” Wasden challenged 1990 laws that he said conflict with the Idaho constitution that requires that Idaho’s endowment land be subject to disposal at public auction.
At year’s end, following a court-ordered stay, the land board will begin to set leases, starting in 2012, at 4 percent of the current land value. The current leases are set at 2.5 percent of the current value.
The lots are on land granted by the United States at statehood, and the land board is required by state law to maximize their economic benefit for public schools, higher education and a state hospital. Rents at both lake sites had been frozen in recent years as state officials worked on a new rental policy.
The approved rent formula falls short of getting the best financial returns from state endowment lands. And, despite a split in the vote, consideration needs to continue in the discussion of how that can be accomplished.
Wannabe cabin owners would clamber over each other to bid on a lot next to Payette or Priest lakes. If you don’t think so, you’re kidding yourself.
Robb Hicken is managing editor for the Idaho Business Review.