Lemhi County Citizen Journalism

Leslie Shumate's picture


Several weeks ago the Salmon City Council asked City Attorney Fred Snook for a downtown property value review. The request was predicated on the council’s interest in the possible purchase of downtown parking opportunities for now and in the future.

Snook researched the availability of vacant, privately owned lots in the downtown core and reported his findings at the council’s August 2 meeting by way of a verbal tour of properties which either are or might be available. All of the assessed valuations listed are four years old and due to be reevaluated, undoubtedly upwards, within a year.

The first property on his tour was the vacant lot owned by Julie Kelly at the corner of Center and Shoup streets. It is currently listed at $89,000. Snook said the county has the half a block, unpaved parcel assessed at $50,854 which figures out to around $4.00 a square foot. He said according to the County Assessor parking space land is viewed as commercial property when located in the downtown core area and those are valued at different levels depending upon whether or not they are fronted on Main Street. 

The long standing Benedict Trust is in the process of dissolving its holdings. Snook said the trust used to own the old bakery building at the corner of Andrews and VanDreff streets behind Bertram’s Brewery where the Fitness Center gym is now located. A portion of the vacant lot to the west between the gym and the Hospice building is owned by Bertram’s and a portion is owned by Ward Walston. A 32 foot wide section between the two, running from the alley behind Bertram’s to VanDreff, is owned by the Benedict Trust. The strip totals around 4200 square feet and is valued at $14,735 or approximately $3.35 per square foot. Snook said the issue with that property would be its narrow width in view of any development of the privately owned land on each side. He has made an inquiry but had not had a reply as of the August 2 meeting.

In that same neighborhood, on the south side of VanDreff and to the east, is a 26,000 square foot lot with a 2400 square foot shop. The property, across the street from Herbs of the World, is owned by Bob Daniels and the county has assessed the vacant land at $47,227 which comes out to under $2.00 a square foot. The shop building value is assessed at $74,663. Snook said Daniels is definitely interested in selling and would round off the price for property and building at $100,000 with negotiable terms. Snook said that when viewed cost-wise, the 26,000 square feet of vacant lot plus a 2400 square foot building for $100,000 versus the Shoup Street property with half the space at $89,000 there isn’t much comparison. He said, “… you’re getting twice as much land for $11,000 more.”

The last property mentioned was the privately owned parking lot behind Arfmann’s, Salmon River Propane, Bri-Easy Shipping and Rags and Wags. Spokesperson Joe Proksch said there is really no interest in selling the parking lot right now. The area is around 20,000 square feet and assessed at about $4.50 per square foot.

Snook told the council county assessments are based on square footage and, as an example of the predicted raise in the next round of property assessments, the ground under the new car wash being constructed behind the Quick Lube on Highway 28 sold at $8.00 a square foot and the land under the library building sold at $15.00 per square foot. Both of those are Main Street properties.

Council reaction to the figures quoted, varied. Mayor Leo Marshall commented that any of the properties mentioned would have to be paved and maintained year around by city crews. He questioned whether city residents want to take on that burden.

Councilman Jim Bockelman said the council needs to think about future Main Street business needs for parking in terms of parking requirements expected of any new-business development. Councilman Jim Baker wanted to give the matter more thought but agreed the city does need to look to future needs and pointed out that all parking possibilities are on private property. Councilman Ken Hill strongly favored facilitating more parking for the downtown area and felt the Daniel’s property was the most feasible.

Councilman Russ Chinske said he would much rather see funds go into something for the future such as a storm water drainage system which is someday going to be required. He said the Daniels property probably does pencil out into something that could be useful plus provide parking. He said the financial agreement between Main Street business owners and the off-street property owners who charge for parking privileges is something in which the city should not be involved. Chinske said, “That’s people doing commerce. That’s people doing business and it’s not our business to get our nose in it. I don’t think that’s the government’s role.” He said he would rather see the city invest in a situation that is going to keep costs down for the taxpayers and serve the people. Chinske said that is the city’s role. 

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