Uncategorized September 15, 2022

Cougar Island Auction Update:

{This Article Appeared in the Star News, Thursday, September 15, 2022}

Cougar Island Gets One Bidder    Current lessee wins auction with $2 million bid.


The lessee of the only home on Cougar Island in Payette Lake bid $2 million to buy the lot at an auction held Wednesday in Eagle by the Idaho Department of Lands.

Jim Laski, a Bellevue attorney, was the only person to place a bid at Wednesday’s auction, which offered the 14.2-acre island as a whole or in five lots platted by the state. Laski told The Star-News after the meeting that despite placing the winning bid for his 2.5-acre lot, he cannot afford the $2 million price tag, the minimum bid set by the state. “I can only make that bid because I’m the lessee,” Laski said after the auction. “I’ll either try to sell my position or I’ll end up continuing to lease the island (from the lands department).” It is unknown what will happen to the four lots that did not sell at yesterday’s auction, said Sharla Arledge, a spokesperson for the lands department. “IDL staff will take a look at what the next steps will be, and it will be discussed with the State Land Board,” said Arledge, adding that there is no timeline for that to happen.

Auctioneer Mark Bottles noted the silence in the Waters Edge Event Center as Cougar Island became available for bids. “Boy, that air conditioning sounds really loud right now,” Bottles said to about 70 people in attendance. Laski was not surprised that nobody else bid on all or part of island, citing what he believed were inflated minimum bids that totaled $8.8 million for the entire island. “They re-appraised the property a month ago and they doubled the values,” he said. Laski requested in 2020 that the island be put up for auction to give him a chance to own out-right the land under his house. He pays $34,000 per year to lease the lot from the state. Laski told the McCall City Council last month that he expected to be outbid for his home, which is built on a lot he has leased for nearly 10 years. In July, the council wrote a letter to the State Land Board, which oversees the lands department, saying current zoning in place for the island would not allow any new homes.

Zoning on the island limits development to one home per 10 acres, which means Laski’s home would be the only allowed. Cougar Island is under Valley County’s purview, but is in the McCall Impact Area, for which the county adopts zoning laws that mirror those in place for city limits. In April, Valley County submitted a letter to the land board asking for the auction to be postponed to allow more time for the county to raise money to buy or conserve the island. However, the auction was affirmed in June by the land board, which is chaired by Gov. Brad Little and made up of the state’s top elected officials.

The lands department was required by the Idaho Constitution to accept the highest bid for Cougar Island, which is state endowment land managed to the benefit of public schools. The Cougar Island auction is the first recommended by a state plan passed last year that would sell 377 acres of state land around the lake within 20 years. The Process State endowment lands must be sold at public auction so that the lands department gets the best possible return as mandated by the Idaho Constitution. Endowment land around Payette Lake has been leased for use as residential cottage sites as far back as the early 1900s. In 2010, the state land board approved a plan to divest ownership of leased cottage site parcels to give lessees a chance to buy the land outright at auction.