A cottage owner on Crooked Lake is optimistic a compromise can be reached on proposed lease rate hikes.
The lakefront property is owned by the nearby Sakimay First Nation.
Lease rates are scheduled to go up dramatically – in some cases eight times what they are now.
Marc Saleski is one of about 300 cottage owners whose lease rates will be affected.
Currently, he is paying about $700 dollars a year but under a new formula his lease fees would jump to $4,000 annually.
Saleski admits the rates were too low for too long but he questions the need for such a dramatic increase.
“It was too low but for us to go to 4,000, that is too high,” he says. “When you start doing comparisons and looking at similar properties, really, in my mind, 2,500 a year is about where it should come in at.”
Saleski does not solely blame the Sakimay First Nation.
Other landowners on Crooked Lake have also boosted lease rates over the years.
He says the First Nation should be getting fair market value and cottage owners should be prepared to pay more.
“In the end, lease rates may hang in there a little higher than cottagers think it should, but I mean you have to look around,” he says. “It is going to work out because it is valuable income to the First Nation and it’s a valued quality of life for cottage owners, so it will work out.”
The lease rates are based on the size of a lot and have nothing to do with the value of a property built on it.
Saleski predicts no matter how things turn out, there will be big changes in cottage country.
He is prepared to pay more because his property is in use year round.
However, Saleski says other cottagers who own small un-serviced cabins that are rarely used will likely sell rather than pay thousands of dollars in annual lease fees.
If the issue cannot be settled through negotiation, a lawsuit could be launched sometime next year.
Regardless, negotiations will have to begin almost immediately for a new five-year lease because the existing lease expires next year.