LIFE AFTER LAW ENFORCEMENT
The Draw to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
By: Lolita Harper
The sparkling lake, crisp air and pristine beauty of the wooded Idaho landscape are a natural draw for those who love outdoor activities. Combine those attributes with a popular affinity for the second amendment and a fiscally conservative government and the state becomes a favorite for those retiring from a career in law enforcement.
Retired Capt. Bart Belknap is one of those who could not resist the draw of the quaint city of Coeur d’Alene, which has a population of 47,000 and boasts beautiful scenery and unparalleled hospitality.
“We wanted to retire where it was green and we didn’t feel like we were being pick-pocketed by the government,” Belknap said. “We toured Coeur d’Alene for about a week and we were absolutely convinced this was the place to be.”
Belknap, who retired as a captain at the Apple Valley Sheriff’s Station after 28 years working for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, said there is so much interest in Idaho from retirees that he obtained his real estate license. Many retirees look at Arizona or Washington but many opt for Idaho as an affordable and beautiful place to retire.
The traffic is practically non-existent and politics are more conservative. Government is not as intrusive and taxes and fees are much, much lower than in California. Belknap still has an affinity for California, after all, its where he raised his family and spent his working career. But in his later years, he found Coeur d’Alene to offer more opportunity for a peaceful, joyful life.
The Belknaps bought 10 acres in Coeur d’Alene in 2011 and planned to build a house to move into after retirement. Belknap retired in 2012 and sold their Apple Valley home in 2014. The Belknaps lived in a fifth wheel on their Idaho property until Thanksgiving of that year. Their home is about 2,800 square feet with an additional “shop” that houses all the toys, such as the boat, quads and fifth wheel. Belknap only uses about one acre of his 10-acre property; the additional 9 acres remain pristinely wooded.
“It’s like stepping back in time 30 years,” Belknap said of Idaho. “People treat each other well here; like humans.”
Belknap has at least 10 active clients from the San Bernardino area who are looking to move to Coeur d’Alene after they retire. Belknap’s first home sale was to now-retired Sgt. Leroy Sapp and his wife, who retired as a dispatch supervisor.
Sapp and his wife initially planned to retire on the Washington Coast and even bought property there. But Sapp was diagnosed with cancer and decided to sell his wooded land because it was not close to a hospital. Cancer also spoiled any plans to move to Havasu because Sapp simply cannot tolerate the heat since his chemotherapy. Sapp had family in Idaho, just south of Coeur d’Alene and decided to visit. Once they saw the city of Coeur d’Alene, they were convinced it was where they wanted to spend their golden years.
“People are so friendly up here,” Sapp said. “They go out of their way to say ‘hi’ and they go out of their way to help people.”
Sapp, who also moved from Apple Valley, learned Belknap had become a realtor and asked for information. They ended up buying a home on 10 wooded acres. They had intended to downsize but when Sapp’s wife saw this home, she fell in love with it. The Sapps now live in a 5-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom house with a “dynamite” view. Like the Belknaps, the Sapps only use about one of their 10 acres. The rest remains untouched.
“If you would have told me we would have a house in the woods, I would’ve told you you were crazy,” Sapp said.
Idaho’s winters can be severe, so many people choose to keep a home in Southern California in addition to buying a home in Idaho. Idaho only requires six months and 1 day for permanent residency. Many people leave for the winters and go back to California for the warmth and to see family.
“The winters can be brutal,” Belknap said. “But we vacation in January and head south. But the snow is good for snowmobiling and skiing.”
Coeur d’Alene has a large draw for those who love outdoor recreation. Whether winter or summer, the unparalleled beauty of the lakes and forest is a big draw for those who are active. People can boat, snowboard, ski, wakeboard, hike, bike etc.
Idaho is not only friendly to the recreation crowd, it also welcomes typically conservative ideals such as open carry. In fact, some restaurants and stores offer discounts for those who carry a firearm.
“You can walk into a restaurant with a sidearm on your hip and you get 15% discount on breakfast,” Sapp said.
Belknap is proud he can help people find the perfect house, in a neighborhood or area that works for them. He enjoys taking the time to tour with visitors and explain to them the pros and cons of various areas. Leroy Sapp is grateful for the introduction to Coeur d’Alene, as he can keep is home in Southern California to visit his daughters and still retire surrounded by natural beauty.
“We were able to come up to God’s country,” Sapp said. “We love the breeze through the trees and the smell of the pines in the four seasons. We wanted to have a home that will be a family legacy, that we can leave behind.”