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Cabin lot renters on Jamestown Reservoir seek way to buy lots

The Jamestown Reservoir Cabin Owners Association has asked North Dakota's congressional delegation to draft legislation that would allow the federal government to sell the cabin lots on the Jamestown Reservoir to each cabin owner.

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The Jamestown Reservoir Cabin Owners Association has asked North Dakota's congressional delegation to introduce legislation that would allow the federal government to sell the cabin lots on the reservoir to the lot renters. John M. Steiner / The Sun

The Jamestown Reservoir Cabin Owners Association has asked North Dakota’s congressional delegation to draft legislation that would allow the federal government to sell the cabin lots on the Jamestown Reservoir to each cabin owner.

The Stutsman County Park Board Tuesday unanimously supported having Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., work on draft legislation that would allow the sale of the reservoir’s cabin lots to the cabin owners.

Steve Cichos, who is a member of the Cabin Owners Association, said the association is looking for a solution to avoid having to undergo a lease rate review by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation every five years.

In November 2015, Bureau of Reclamation officials informed Jamestown Reservoir year-round cabin renters that their lot rents would be increasing by 135 percent from $2,840 to $6,700. The seasonal lot rent increase, which covers a lot rented for up to six months a year, was set to increase 157 percent from $1,420 to $3,650.

In December, Hoeven, Heitkamp and Cramer worked together to get a cap of 33 percent placed on any reservoir lot rent increase over a five-year period. The Bureau of Reclamation completed an appraisal of every piece of property it leases in North Dakota, including the Jamestown Reservoir.

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Cichos said the association would like the federal government to sell the land above the mark of 1,454 feet above mean sea level on each lot to the lot renter. He said since the reservoir was created by Jamestown Dam that is used as a flood control device, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the dam’s operation, won’t allow selling property below the mark of  1,454 feet above mean sea level for flood control purposes.

Cichos said the Cabin Owners Association would like each member to be able to get a permanent easement on his or her lot below the 1,454-foot mark so he or she can install a dock and place pumps on the reservoir.

He said the association would also like to work out an arrangement so current lot renters who may not be able to purchase their lots can continue to lease their lots on the reservoir.

Hoeven introduced a bill in the Senate in February, with Heitkamp co-sponsoring, that would give current lot renters around Lake Patterson near Dickinson, N.D., the option to purchase their lots from the federal government.

Hoeven said Friday he had successfully gotten a bill through Congress that allowed the Lake Tschida lot renters to purchase their lots after the lots were appraised by the Bureau of Reclamation and each lot had received a fair market value. He said the Bureau of Reclamation was wanting to move all lot renters off the Heart Butte Reservoir, which includes Lake Tschida near Elgin, N.D. He said his first bill focused solely on Lake Tschida because there was an urgent need for an answer to the bureau’s effort to move lot renters off their lots on the lake.

Hoeven said he couldn’t add the lot renters on Lake Patterson in Dickinson and Jamestown Reservoir to the Lake Tschida bill because the two Cabin Owner Associations didn’t know how they wanted to proceed.

“Earlier this year the Lake Patterson homeowners (lot renters) came up with a plan to allow each lot renter to purchase their lot at fair market value,” he said.

Hoeven said he may be able to add the Jamestown Reservoir Cabin Owners Association’s request to the Lake Patterson legislation. He said he was hoping to get the bill before the appropriate committee in May. If he can’t get the Jamestown Reservoir request on the Lake Patterson bill, he will introduce the Jamestown Reservoir request in a separate bill later this year.

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“Hopefully we can get Sen. Heitkamp to co-sponsor that legislation as well,” he said.

Casey Bradley, Stutsman County auditor/chief operating officer, said one of the benefits to the draft legislation is the county would be given all the public property below the 1,454-foot mark. This means the concessionaires at Pelican Point, Lakeside Marina and Parkhurst campgrounds would be able to offer seasonal rates to campers. Currently federal regulations limit a camper’s stay at a camp spot to 14 days. The campers must then take a 30-day break, then can rent a camping spot again for another 14-days during the season.

Bradley said currently there are 42 seasonal cabin lot renters and 29 year-round cabin lot renters on the Jamestown Reservoir, and the county receives $146,771 from the permit fees paid to the Bureau of Reclamation. He said those fund would go away if every lot is sold, but there could be additional revenues from the concessionaires with seasonal camping rates.

“There is a lot of ‘what-ifs’ at this point,” Bradley said.

Related Topics: STUTSMAN COUNTY
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