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Borough to transfer tax foreclosed Barr Lake property to public use

Posted: June 26, 2013 - 9:46pm

An area north of Nikiski without previous public access to Barr Lake may soon have it.

The Kenai Borough Assembly is expected Tuesday to approved the transfer of a small tax-foreclosed property in the Georgine Lake Subdivision from the pending auction list to borough ownership under a provision declaring the property for use by the public.

The 1.4-acre lot sits at the north end of Barr Lake, is vacant and is mostly wetland. The parcel would be the second taken by foreclosure from Georgine Steib in the last five years. According to the Borough Assessor’s office, in November 2011, the Borough took possession of an adjacent property, directly north, after paying $506 to cover the back taxes owed by Steib, the woman who developed the surrounding area for housing and for whom a nearby lake and street are named.

Kenai Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said the recent parcel will cost taxpayers about $140.

The former Steib properties abut Georgine Lake Road; combined, they provide a corridor for public shoreline and water access to Barr Lake.

Prior to Borough ownership, the properties were subject to subdivision rules that allowed only “lot owners” within the subdivision to use the shore and access the lake’s water.

The original plat, signed in the 1970s, designated access to Barr Lake as reserved for use of the lot owners within this subdivision. The old rule would no longer apply if the borough takes ownership.

No official plan was offered by Navarre, who introduced the idea to make the shoreline public at the June 18 assembly meeting. A public hearing is set for the July 2 assembly meeting.

Public lands manager Marcus Mueller said there was never intent to develop the two parcels for public access. However, were a person to access the Barr Lake shore and waters through the land it would not be trespassing.

The borough has never had to argue the point that borough-owned land is open to “general use.” Conversely, if public use were to degrade shoreline habitat, restrictions might be created. Any plans to officially develop access would go through a borough planning process, Mueller said

“We manage it just like any other land,” he said.

The land parcel was to be auctioned off in the fall with hundreds more acres taken by the borough’s tax foreclosure process, including more than 35 acres in the Diamond Ridge Subdivision and at least three 40-acre sections, two of them neighboring in Ninilchik. In general, the borough would not auction off a piece of tax-foreclosed land that can’t support a house, well and septic, he said.

Mueller said the borough has seen many situations similar to the Steib property.

“It’s not uncommon; people just stop paying taxes,” Mueller said. “The practice is we retain (the property) for a public purpose.”

Reach Greg Skinner at greg.skinner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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