The city of Soldotna is taking steps toward buying a $1.1 million property abutting Soldotna Creek Park.
At its Wednesday meeting, the Soldotna city council voted to move $1,124,000 from the city’s general fund — or city savings — to buy tract B-2, Terra Edge Subdivision Part Three from Davis Block and Concrete. The Kenai Peninsula Borough assesses the property as of July 7 at $871,100.
Council member John Czarnezki voted against the ordinance, and council member Regina Daniels abstained due to a conflict of interest.
The three-acre lot sits directly west of the city’s park behind the Tesoro gas station. The lot has often accommodated overflow parking during large events like the Kenai River Festival.
“I just love the idea of it belonging to the city,” council member Nancy Eoff said.
Other council members, Soldotna City Manager Mark Dixson and Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michelle Glaves discussed during the meeting possibilities for the property if the city were to own it.
Dixson said the property could expand parking during large events at the park, or provide real-estate for developing boardwalk-front businesses or a conference and visitor center.
But the property’s future use is not outlined in city plans, he said. And the city had not budgeted for its purchase; Davis Block and Concrete had approached the city, he said. Negotiations began in March, he said.
“It’s hard to be specific at this point,” Dixson said.
Council member Dale Bagley agreed. Development is dubious, he said.
“We’re a long way away from doing any convention or conference center,” Bagley said. It may not ever happen, he added.
Despite that, Glaves told the council the property is suited for a conference and visitor center, and the city should buy it. A conference center needs to be within walking distance of a town’s center so visitors can spend money at shops and stores — and the property is just that, she said. And if the city built a visitor center on the property, city residents could walk to it, she said.
“Three acres adjacent to that park — we’ll never have that chance again,” Glaves said.
The chamber of commerce will conduct a feasibility study for a conference and visitor center, she said.
She said the city should not turn the property exclusively into parking.
But before the city can buy the property, it must complete a soils analysis to determine if the ground will support development, and Davis Block and Concrete needs to remove the existing buildings and finish phase two of an environmental analysis, according to Dixson’s memo to the council.
The city will finalize buying the land by no later than Sept. 1.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.