Who's In and Who's Out of Their Payette Lake Cabins? 

A good deal for some, a bitter pill for others

It's all about perspective. From the outside looking in, the takeaway from the April 5 state auction of 21 cabin sites along Payette Lake is that the Idaho Department of Lands netted $6 million.

"Twenty of 21 Payette Lake Lots Sell to Current State Leaseholders," trumpeted the April 8 edition of the Idaho Statesman.

But from the inside looking out, the story becomes very personal.

"Family Loses McCall Home in State Lot Auction," reported the April 10 edition of the McCall Star-News.

The official April 7 press release from the IDL was rosy; and why not? Auction proceeds totaling $4.5 million had already been earmarked for the Idaho Department of Education, Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College, while another $1.5 million will go to State Hospital South in Blackfoot, which provides acute and long-term care for the severely mentally ill.

After years of often contentious debate between cabin owners and the state, which owned the land beneath the cabins, the Land Board voted in 2010 to divest its ownership of most of the lots. State officials argued that leases had been kept unreasonably low, while cabin owners begged for a slow and reasonable adjustment to appropriate market values for the land. From the outside, much of the state saw missed opportunities by not managing its assets to produce higher returns; but from the inside, owners openly worried about keeping their idyllic views.

And in one case, on April 7, that worry became a nightmare for the family of Lynn Terry, which had celebrated vacations and weddings at their Rocky Shore Drive cabin for more than three decades.

"The state doesn't seem to put a whole lot of stock in that," Terry told Dave Goins of Idaho News Service, reporting for the Star-News. "It's a very sad day."

Terry watched 20 other families successfully bid for the right to stay in their cabins, two of them in competitive auctions that brought in $28,000 more than the appraised value of the land. But Terry's own effort to stay put was unsuccessful when a competitor paid $42,000--$5,000 above the appraised value of the land. The successful bidder, Jeanine Cleary, also agreed to pay Terry $68,580 for Terry's three-bedroom cabin. More than 150 people attended the auction, which took place at the Hilton Garden Inn in Eagle, rather than McCall.

The bidding wars could get even more intense as 95 state-owned sites on Priest Lake and more than 100 other state-owned sites on Payette Lake head for the auction block later this year.

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