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McCall council designates Cougar Island an Area of Critical Concern ahead of state auction

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McCall City Council voted to designate Cougar Island in Payette Lake as an Area of Critical Concern.

This comes as the Idaho Department of Lands plans to auction the 14.21-acre site to the highest bidder. City Council said the island’s minimum bid was $10.5 million. 

Back in July, the council drafted a letter to the Valley County Commissioners asking that they take legal action to stop the auction and preserve the endowment lands. The commissioners have since written back to the council in support, leading to the unanimous vote to designate the island as an Area of Critical Concern. This designation triggers environmental impact assessment requirements that city council must review before there can be any proposed development applications.

Council also gave direction to staff to put together an emergency ordinance prohibiting the issuance of building permits and land use approvals on Cougar Island until a code is adopted that regulates waste disposal from islands on the lake.

“This would move through the process of the McCall area Planning and Zoning Commission, which the city believes is necessary and prudent in order to protect the city’s drinking water source and the impacts from Island development,” McCall’s Community & Economic Development Director Michelle Groenevelt said. 

The idea of annexing Cougar Island was also suggested by the county commissioners. However, City Attorney Bill Nichols spoke about how difficult of a path that would be to take. 

“We’re exploring that right now,” Nichols said. “It would be a city petition, not an owner petition and that type of annexation is extremely rare in Idaho. And because the island is more than five acres in size, it also makes it an even rarer type of annexation.” 

City staff also believes that an annexation of this magnitude would not come together in time, which is why they believe the emergency ordinance is the most effective route to take to stop the auction. 

 “When we looked at this at a staff level and with legal counsel, it was how do we address the issue both quickly and effectively,” Groenevelt said. “And so we didn’t really feel like the annexation because it’s sort of unprecedented in some ways. And that would take a lot of time and energy. And at the end of the day, if the city and the county are interested in the end result, we felt that this was something where you know both entities could take immediate action.”

The emergency ordinance is contingent on the Valley County Board of Commissioners’ approval.

 

Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Meridian and McCall. Contact her at [email protected].

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