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For the week of February 14 through 20, 2001

Rinker proposes swap for mid-valley state land

Express Staff Writer

In a deal that would net him 106 acres of prime real estate two miles north of Hailey, Southern California developer Harry Rinker has proposed a land swap with the state of Idaho.

Rinker is offering the state a Pocatello building ¾ currently leased to Big 5 Sporting Goods ¾ in exchange for the 106 acres.

The proposal follows a similar one Rinker made last year to trade a Boise GAP store for the land, which, located east of Buttercup Road and south of The Valley Club, is situated in an area of high land values where practically all private property has been developed.

As part of the state’s university endowment property, the land helps fund public education, mainly through being leased.

In March, the state rejected the proposed GAP store trade before the idea ever went to the Idaho Land Board for formal consideration.

Tuesday morning, however, the board considered the new proposal, which appears to be nearly identical to the old one, except for the different property Rinker is offering.

Neither the Big 5 store nor the 106 acres has been appraised by the state.

Perry Whitaker, bureau chief of real estate for the Idaho Department of Lands, said in a telephone interview from his Boise office Friday that the land board likely would not vote on the proposal until appraisals are completed.

However, he said, in his view, the deal "wouldn’t be an equal-value trade," even though the state would realize a boost in its annual income.

Under its current lease with James Mizer, who grows crops and grazes livestock on the property, the state gets $2,323 per year. The lease for the 10,014-square-foot Big 5 Sporting Goods store brings in $123,200 per year, according to a two-page written synopsis of the proposal prepared by department of lands staff.

Mizer’s lease ends in 2006, while the current Big 5 lease expires in 2016.

Though the staff memo did not flatly recommend against the proposal, it suggested to the board that it "analyze the alternatives available."

"The state-owned parcel is an extremely valuable piece of property, and the value will likely increase substantially in the future," the memo stated. "We suggest the board proceed cautiously in making irrevocable decisions…."

The board appears to have several options with the property.

"Numerous people" have asked to buy the parcel, the memo states, which indicates an auction might generate active bidding and a high price. Whitaker declined to say who had shown interest.

Trent Jones, senior protection officer for The Nature Conservancy, said Monday that to the best of his knowledge, the conservancy has never been asked to participate in the acquisition or protection of the parcel.

Also anticipated to drive up the price in a potential auction is the land’s "very valuable" water right—159.5 inches with a Jan. 26, 1886, priority date. At least one other developer near the area has had a proposed project rejected by the county due in part to lack of water.

Additionally, the Idaho Department of Transportation has considered leasing the property for extraction of its "very high quality" gravel, though Whitaker said the ITD has found an alternate source of gravel and is no longer considering the idea.

Rinker owns property near the 106 acres on the opposite side of Buttercup Road, currently under development as Peregrine Ranch.

Rinker, who maintains a residence in Sun Valley and an office in Newport Beach, Calif., was not available for comment.

A longtime developer who began building tract homes in Garden Grove, Calif., in 1953, Rinker belongs to the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, the International Council of Shopping Centers, the Urban Land Institute and the California Business Properties Association.

In 1999, he donated $5 million to the School of Law Library at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.

His development projects include shopping centers, office and industrial parks and service stations throughout southern Calif., as well as many projects in Idaho, most recently, the Golden Eagle Ranch II subdivision south of Ketchum.

In 1998, he contributed $4,800—$200 less than the maximum allowed—to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s election campaign.

Kempthorne is one of five members of the land board.


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