Board OKs new Priest Lake cabin lease template

BOISE — Idaho land board commissioners approved a new lease template Tuesday that includes a 4-percent annual cost-of-living increase cap for cottage site rentals on state land at Priest Lake.

Additionally, the new lease format — with the 4-percent cap on potential inflation-driven rent increases — was approved for cottage site leases at Payette Lake in southern Idaho’s Valley County.

During the Tuesday morning meeting it was argued by Chuck Lempesis — a lawyer for the Priest Lake leaseholders — that the original lease template proposal from the Idaho Department of Lands fell short of expectations of leaseholders because the document hadn’t included a limit on Consumer Price Index-based rent increases and lacked an appeals process for the renters.

Although Lempesis campaigned for a 3-percent CPI cap, a motion by Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna to set the cap at 4 percent was approved on a 3-2 vote. In addition to Luna, Idaho Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Secretary of State Ben Ysursa voted in favor of the winning motion. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and State Controller Brandon D. Woolf voted in opposition.

The lease template for cottages on the state endowment lands at Payette and Priest lakes sets Jan. 1, 2014 as the starting date and extends through Dec. 31, 2020.

The entire lease template issue was split apart during the Tuesday meeting, leaving a new legal appeal process that Lempesis had pushed for out of the equation.

Rents from the cabins at Priest and Payette lakes on state lands go to the state endowment fund. The Idaho K-12 public schools receive proceeds from the fund.

Lempesis warned that as many as 100 cottage leases at Priest Lake could be lost if the land board failed to set some sort of limit on rent increases — through the CPI — and spell out for leaseholders how to appeal what they consider to be adverse lease decisions.

“Because of what we’re creating in this consternation, there will be less revenue for the state, not more,” Lempesis said. “If 100 lessees leave, that’s over $1.5 million a year that the students will not see.”

He added: “I have to tell you the endowment will suffer as a result of this.”

According to a Lands department website, there are more than 500 cottage leases on state land at Payette and Priest lakes.

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