A 50-year lease at Islander RV Resort will go on the auction block as scheduled later this month after protests from three local residents were denied Monday (June 9) by an Arizona state agency, according to the Lake Havasu City (Ariz.) News-Herald.
Protesters included Islander RV owner Marie Meahl, Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson and attorney Harvey Jackson. They were seeking provisions that would guarantee free public shoreline access to the Island property.
However, a spokesman for the State Land Department, which will conduct the auction, said provisions were locked in 10 weeks before the sale was advertised, and could not be revised, and new provisions couldn’t be added.
The lease agreement does not require the resort to provide free shoreline access, even though the Lake Havasu City Council has said in recent years access was a top priority.
In denying the protest, State Land Commissioner Mark Winkleman said protesters had not proven that the agency had acted illegally, or that the state land commissioner had abused his discretion in the lease auction.
Protesters had hoped to have the auction postponed or cancelled if their objections had been approved.
In addition to failing to provide free public shoreline access, Meahl, Johnson and Jackson said, the City Council did not permit public comment on the proposed lease at a recent meeting.
The protests were filed individually. Meahl and Johnson said they were considering appeal options. Jackson could not be reached for comment. Protesters have 20 days to appeal the denial.
The resort’s lease of the 51 acres does not expire for 12 years. But the land department said it would buy out the existing lessee and auction a new long-term commercial property lease because significantly more revenue would be generated that way for the trust fund. The new lease calls for annual payments over 50 years of more than $20 million.
Money from leased state land is deposited in the state trust expendable fund, which benefits school districts in the state.
The resort charges $6 for daily beach use. However, Johnson said, “The people I know have been denied access, so that’s no guarantee of being able to use the beach.”
Meahl said she was not having a big case of heartburn about the protest being denied, because she expected that.
“But I am having a big case of heartburn because people were denied the right to speak about the lease at the City Council meeting,” she said.
The City Council received copies of the resort’s lease application in April 2000, but did not comment on the provisions. In denying public testimony at a council meeting, Whelan said the council lacked support for intervention attempts.
Johnson said, “It’s hard to fault the State Land Commission’s ruling given that Lake Havasu City had no objection to the extension of the lease. I believe that if the city had fought it, and allowed the lease to run out, we could have addressed the zoning and access to the beach by the public.”
In the past, the council required developers to provide shoreline access along Bridgewater Channel.
Meahl also said the resort lease violates the city’s general plan approved by voters in November. However, the State Land Department said the current property use has been grandfathered into the plan.
Meahl said she wanted to be on record that when no public comment is allowed, “Someone should protest when it’s something that’s important to the city like shoreline access.”
Meahl said the governing committee of the Lake Havasu Association of Realtors, representing 500 local Realtors, also objected to having no shoreline-access revision in the lease.
She said that the Shoreline Access organizers have also gathered about 3,000 signatures on petitions protesting the lease. Some signatures had been thrown out for technical reasons, but organizers have been gathering more.