- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) - The owners of 76 cabins built on state land around a northern Idaho lake are suing over the way the state determined the land’s value.

The Spokesman-Review reported (http://bit.ly/1nwH6L7 ) that the lawsuit argues the state is including the value of improvements such as access roads and utility lines that renters paid to have installed at cabin sites on Priest Lake.

The appraised value will be the minimum bid for possible auctions and will be used as the basis for future rental costs.

The state argues renters have no property rights that can be violated because the land is owned by the state.

Court documents say the average annual rent on Priest Lake would increase from $9,915 to $17,850 next year under the new appraisals. The lawsuit seeks to stop the state from using the new appraised values.

“The appraisals are objectively wrong,” the cabin owners argue in court documents. They seek a return to this year’s values plus a 1.6 percent increase to account for inflation.

The state said that would mean a loss to an endowment that benefits public schools of nearly $2 million next year.

Idaho has scheduled an auction on Aug. 28 for 62 of the 354 state-owned cabin sites at Priest Lake. Those lessees signed up for the auction, willing to take a chance at being outbid to get ownership of the ground under their cabins. The group suing includes a half-dozen who are signed up for the auction.

Cabin owners who are outbid at auction would receive the current appraised value for their cabin site, plus other improvements.

“The valuations are really indefensible,” said Kaari Burrows Davies, a Kellogg native and Spokane resident whose father, with his father, built a cabin on a Priest Lake state lot in 1959.

When Idaho first started leasing the lots a century ago, the land was undeveloped. Cabin-site renters brought in their building materials by boat and arranged on their own to bring in roads and utilities.

The cabin owners, whose attorneys include former Idaho state redistricting commissioner Ray Givens and former Idaho Lt. Gov. David Leroy, contend the state is violating their constitutional rights and illegally taking the value of the roads and utilities without compensation.

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who has worked on the cabin-site issue for years as a member of the state Land Board, said: “It’s always been the big question: Just what is the value of these things? We’ve always fought about it.”

Judge Barbara Buchanan in Bonner County has scheduled a hearing next week on the request for an injunction.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com

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