by JOSHUA NISHIMOTO
Article added: 06-07-2022
Recently, there has been a lot of news generated about a new development in Camp Bay. Being unfamiliar with Camp Bay, I decided to visit the property with Eric Skinner and Brent Stevens, owners of Century 21 RiverStone who are marketing the property, to see firsthand for myself what is really going on and to try to discern what is fact and fiction.
As we drove to Camp Bay together, Eric and Brent shared with me the story of this special property that was owned by the same family for over 100 years until its sale in 2021. Since the early 1900s, Camp Bay was homesteaded by the Van Schravendyk family, where they raised cattle in the early days of settling Camp Bay and then made money by leasing land for folks to build waterfront cabins in the late 1950s. Ultimately, the family had about 21 leases of waterfront property, and between property leases and logging the property, the family held the land until its sale in 2021.
In 2017, Jim Green, one of the descendants of the Van Schravendyk family and the largest shareholder of the Green family corporation, approached Eric and told him that it was time for the corporation to sell the 407-acre property. Jim wanted to sell the property to a person or developer who would care for and appreciate the heritage and history of the property. In late summer of 2020, Eric met Bill Brownlee, co-owner of The M3 Companies LLC “M3,” a development company with a track record of developing heritage properties in Arizona and Idaho. Eric shared that Bill and his wife Jeanne were just there looking for a single waterfront lot on Lake Pend Oreille, after visiting the lake with their family about 25 years earlier, when they found the Camp Bay property listing online. After touring the property, the Brownlees were so overcome by the beauty, majesty and heritage of the land that they decided to buy Camp Bay in its entirety, with the goal of creating a low-density lakefront master-planned community respecting the heritage, natural terrain and shoreline of the property. The project is being managed by Bill and his son Alex.
“Jeanne and I were hoping to find a lot on the lake and were fortunate enough to discover Camp Bay and meet Eric and Jim. The opportunity to acquire such a historical property is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Being allowed to create with our team a master-planned community in which we can build our family’s home and control the development of this historic property is a blessing. When we first saw the property, we were a bit taken back by the appearance of the older rental homes on the shoreline of the bay. The first order of business was to clean up the bay by removing the older structures, docks and garbage. We hauled tons of garbage that had accumulated on the property through the years,” Brownlee said.
“The next step was to create the master plan. We looked at multiple iterations, as we always do, with the goal of developing a master plan that fits the property; one not driven by density but by what the property offers. The property has approximately 3,300 feet on the bay, which is unique. Given the historical size of the 21 leased lots that we converted to fee simple lots, under the code we could have created lots as small as the smallest leased lot, which was about 5,000 square feet (50’ x 100’), and put a lot of density on the shoreline. We chose not to do that out of respect for the neighbors and the community, ever mindful of the impacts of this development on Lake Pend Oreille.
“One of our initial plans created 60 lots with 14 lots on the shoreline. I felt that was way too dense. Ultimately, we decided on eight fee simple lots on the lake, 32 non-waterfront lots ranging in size from 1.5 acres (which is 12 times larger than the smallest lot allowed under the 21 leased lots) up to 60 acres. Our overall density is just under one lot per 10 acres, with one of the lakefront parcels being a common lot providing lake access for the non-waterfront lots and a common community dock. The master plan creates a community with lots offering a wide variety of views, lot sizes and settings,” he continued.
“In our business, your work creates communities based upon the decisions you and your team make, and that is why we work so hard to find what the land is offering rather than maximizing what we could do with the land, with each community creating its own sense of place.”
“One thing that is really important to Bill and M3 is that they didn’t want to build a high-density project down here, because that just isn’t suitable for the land and takes away from the uniqueness of the bay,” said Skinner.
“So, one of the cool things that has happened is that our bay lots, which encompass approximately the first 130 acres or so of land, were kept to just 21 lots, which is the same number of homes on leased lots that existed on roughly 15 acres of waterfront since the late 1950s. M3 split the additional 300-plus acres on the back end of the property as well. Splitting up the land into larger 10- to 60-acre lots allows for spacious living, plenty of room for animals to roam, and includes open spaces and wide views of the entirety of Camp Bay—with a backdrop of the Cabinet Mountains and gorgeous Lake Pend Oreille. It’s a low-density community for the amount of land available to be split. If they had chosen to, they could have gone through the process with the county and significantly increased the number of lots that could have been created. Based on this, we think it’s a real win for the community. Additionally, where there were once 21 parcels on the water, now there are only eight residential lots and the community recreational area, which vary between 2.26 to 60 acres, with 189 feet to 600-plus feet of water frontage,” Stevens said.
“That is significantly larger than the average waterfront lot in terms of property size and water frontage (the average waterfront lot has 100 feet of frontage),” added Skinner. “And for those moving to secondary Camp Bay lots without waterfront, they will have access to the community park. M3 is repurposing portions of the Van Schravendyck’s original homestead cabin, which has been standing on the property since 1903, in different aspects of the community. It is such an amazing old homestead cabin with so much history that they want it to be preserved to help tell the Camp Bay story for generations to come. Bill has tasked the team to come up with options to preserve the cabin; the two largest uses will be using logs from the homestead cabin for the community pavilion and the tree fort. In addition, they are using the old row boat that the Van Schravendycks used to row from Camp Bay to Hope.”
The community park is on approximately 3 acres with 200 foot of lakefront and is being designed to include a beach area, outdoor fire pits, grass playground areas, a ranch pavilion with restrooms, outdoor patio and grills, community dock and parking. Another cool and unique feature will be a tree fort park, across from the community park, that borders federal land. This park will have a tree fort and children’s playground, which is not just being designed for the kids—but for adults too. It’s one of many destination hiking spots in the community with jaw-dropping views of the lake, a place where families can gather in a unique setting and spend time together. Each lot comes with underground power, fiber optic (for highspeed internet) and a well with no less than 5 gallons per minute yield. To date, the lowest yielding well has produced 15 gallons per minute, with most of the wells exceeding 20 gallons per minute. Any of the lots near the lake will be on a community sewer system, with the community drain field set toward the back portion of the 300 acres to help protect the lake. Any of the larger back lots will have their own septic system.
Camp Bay is considered a deep-water bay, so there’s water in the bay year-round (currently 40 feet deep at its lowest time of the season). The terrain of the bay allows for a natural amphitheater homesite experience so just about every lot enjoys a fantastic view of the lake, with little to no obstructions to the views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Four or five current lot owners are scheduled to start constructing homes on their lots in 2022, with one residence already under construction.
“I’ve been selling property for over 20 years now in the Sandpoint area, and this is the coolest property I think I’ve ever been on,” Skinner said. “We opened the community for sale in 2021; to date, 14 of the 40 lots are either closed or pending. When I tour people around the property, they immediately see the special place that Camp Bay is. Few properties offer this much waterfront, with long range and access to the water in a carefully planned low-density setting.”
South Camp Bay residents have been very supportive of the Camp Bay project. These residents access their properties through Camp Bay. Bill and Alex have continued open communications with South Camp Bay residents to keep them informed and involved in a wonderful new chapter for the bay.
“It’s one of the last large waterfront communities, and it’s such a special place,” Skinner said. “Whether you are looking at 3 acres on the water or want 10-plus acres with long-range mountain and lake views with water access, this community offers lowdensity waterfront living with amazing neighbors and attention to detail. I know of no other development like it in North Idaho, and we’re excited to be a part of it!”