Soldotna looks into unused city-owned properties

Soldotna is identifying city-owned land parcels that will eventually be purchasable by the public through a bidding process.

Director of Economic Development and Planning Stephanie Queen said the city has 22 unused pieces of property at this time. The city is looking into which of those can be used for future projects, and which will be open to public bid slated for early spring 2015.

“I am not aware that we have ever done this before,” Queen said. “Some municipalities do it regularly.”

The project has been put before the council multiple times, Queen said. In June of 2013 she asked if the council was interested in analyzing plots to retain or sell them.

John Mohorcich was hired in April 2014, to as a consultant to advise the city through out the process, Queen said. He has completed the background checks, visual inspections and reviewing the deeds from the original acquirement of each property.

“These properties were acquired … through foreclosure, some as a trade for other real property, and some with the intention of developing projects that never came to be,” according to the memo from Queen submitted to the city council.

The oldest parcel dates back to 1970, Queen said. In 1972 a piece of property was purchased to run a sewer line through. The sewer went in, but the property above it remains unused, she said.

Mohorcich, who has worked in land management for three decades, said the process of analyzing properties is an exciting one.

“You never know what’s out there,” Mohorcich said. “You never know what people might be thinking about as an opportunity.”

Mohorcich said the group of parcels owned by Soldotna is diverse. There is the potential for urban and housing development. He said it is not uncommon for cities to hold onto properties they have obtained. Sometimes projects just aren’t possible to carry out after purchasing land, he said. Sometimes land is donated, or the acquisition is unplanned, he said.

Queen said a single parcel that was purchased along Knight Drive with the original intent to develop a cemetery, is an example of a project that changed after part of the land had already been purchased. Later the city decided to develop the land, for Memorial Park now sits on for that purpose.

Other parcels such as the three that sit directly adjacent to the Soldotna Wastewater Treatment Plant will be kept for potential development, Queen said.

Queen and Mohorcich will be proposing a timeline for an approval process to develop the parcels the city will be retaining and when they plan to sell off the remaining parcels at an upcoming council meeting.

Queen said pamphlets and advertisements will be released when the properties are available for public bid early next year.

Kelly Sullivan can be reached at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com

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