Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Homeowners Try to Lure Buyers from the Sky
Carl Johnston adds the finishing touches to the letters and numbers on the roof.
Thursday, July 8, 2021



Carl and Heather Johnston have pounded many “For Sale” signs in the ground, as real estate agents with Hallmark Idaho Properties.

But this week they’ve taken a new tack with their own property. They’ve painted “For Sale 286 Acres  (208) 720-9082” on the flat roof of their home on Broadford Road in hopes of attracting a buyer from among the wealthy magnates flying to Sun Valley for Allen & Co.’s so-called “summer camp for billionaires.”

The Johnstons property offers a gorgeous view of Bellevue at sunset.

“Not only do we have 286 acres of land on Broadford Road but we have 300 inches of 1882 water—an obscene amount of water,” said Heather Johnston.

The Johnstons have had their property for sale for $15 million, but they haven’t been getting the kind of attention they wanted from a “For Sale” sign on the road.

As the two watched planes fly into Hailey’s Friedman Memorial Airport from their front porch, Carl quipped he wished that he could stand on the side of the road with a sandwich board during Allen & Company and tell them, “You know, there’s a big piece of property for sale right here near the executive terminal.”

“We laughed and a few hours later we went to Twin Falls where I noticed there was some roof paint for sale,” said Heather Johnston. “And I told my husband we really should paint the roof of our house because it’s black and white paint would help with energy costs. So, we went to work that night painting the roof while our kids held flashlights.

The Johnstons started painting at night to avoid the heat of the past week.

“I haven’t gotten any phone calls from Allen & Company people yet. But, if people are seeing the sign  when they fly in and out, that’s great.”

The Minnie Moore Mine, which sits on the Johnstons’ property, was found about 1881. It became one of the biggest silver-producing mines in the Northwest, producing about $7 million worth of silver ore between 1881 and 1887.

It’s been owned by the Bank of England and the late Idaho Sen. Irvine Rockwell. Charles Schwab, a steel and mining magnate known for leading Bethlehem Steel, Carnegie Steel Company and U.S. Steel Corporation, owned it from 1904 to 1906.

The story goes that the mine was discovered when a dog chased a badger down a hole, which was full of ore, said Johnston.

The old mine buildings have been removed but there are still some marks on the land that reference the property’s mining history.

“But Tom Blanchard, who knows a lot about mining, and I have discussed this at length and it seems this is a story that’s often repeated so we don’t know if that’s true or not,” she added.

The mine was abandoned in 1927. Carl Johnston’s father bought the property in the mid-70s as a quiet place to raise his kids, and Carl spent 45 years of his life on the property. Heather joined him 25 years ago and the couple raised their children on the site.

I’ve loved every minute of it,” said Heather Johnston. “I love the history. I love being responsible for the land. I love the privacy--it’s dead silent. It’s been wonderful for my kids to grow up there, roaming around and learning to drive motorcycles on the property. And I have some incredible neighbors.”

But both children recently graduated from high school. Their daughter is headed to Barcelona to study architecture and their son is off to college for an engineering degree. So, Mom and Dad are looking to unload the property and move some place where they don’t have to work five jobs between them to make ends meet.

“Our kids have watched us work every minute of the day all our lives,” Heather Johnston said. “We’d  like a quieter life where we’re not working dawn to dusk just to survive.”

The property, which spans four gulches and several lots along Broadford Road could, of course, make a site for affordable housing if someone was so inclined. Some have expressed interest in buying the property for its water, letting it flow downstream to a farmer or some other user.

“There could be smarter use of the land than us sitting there as one family with all that land and all that water,” Heather Johnston said.

Mine tailings, which were mitigated in a Superfund site east of the property, are not included in the sale. The Johnstons made an agreement with the federal government that they would keep it capped and take care of it for a hundred years.

One of the benefits of having mining property is that the property taxes are very low, said Johnston. Some of the claims cost just seven cents a year in taxes.

“Really, we’re asking $15 million for the water,” she added. “The land is free.”

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