Plan for senior housing site nears maturity

Borough to consider selling land in Cooper Landing for project

Posted: Sunday, February 13, 2005

The long-held dream of a seniors' housing complex in Cooper Landing is poised to a giant step toward reality March 1.

That's when the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will consider an ordinance that would lead to an offer by the borough to lease and then sell about 12.5 acres at less than fair market value to the Cooper Landing Senior Citizen Corp.

Ordinance 2005-06, introduced at the Feb. 1 meeting, would codify the position of the borough that construction of a seniors' housing project at Cooper Landing is in the public interest, and that giving the group a break on price serves that same interest.

The land currently is held by the state, but the borough received a final decision approving its selection of that land from the state in 1989. Essentially, the borough now has management authority over the property and should receive patent to it following acceptance of an Alaska State Land Survey to be completed in the next few months.

The land is about 1.5 miles from the Sterling Highway along Snug Harbor Road. It has an adequate water source and is considered suitable for senior housing. A resolution passed in October of last year changed its borough classification from preservation to institutional.

The seniors' corporation has long-range plans to develop a seniors' campus that would include independent living, assisted living, nursing and central facilities. It has acquired financing grants through the Alaska Housing Finance Corp.

The proposed ordinance would make accommodations for the seniors' group, including favorable lease and sales terms that would convey the properties at less than fair market value.

The land conveyance instrument is predominantly a lease with options to buy. That means the seniors' corporation would lease the land but be prohibited from beginning actual development projects until it was fully paid for. The agreement allows the corporation to purchase acreage piecemeal as needed over a period of up to 30 years. The borough would turn over the land incrementally through quitclaim deeds in subdivided parcels sized appropriately for each phase of the development. This approach protects the borough's interests should the project fail financially.

The 12.5 acres currently is being appraised and determination of its value is expected in a report due Feb. 25. The corporation would pay a lease rate of 8 percent of the purchase price. The assembly would set the less-than-fair-market-value based on the appraisal.

Chuck Young, spokesperson for the seniors' corporation, said board members met Tuesday with their project consultants, Anderson Enterprises, who will prepare a presentation for the March 1 assembly meeting and answer any technical questions.

Cooper Landing Senior Citizen Corp. Inc. has much of the money it will need to launch the first phase of the project.

"We are in pretty good shape to do this," Young said, crediting "terrific cooperation" by borough staffers in moving the land deal forward.

Supporting documents accompanying the draft ordinance in the Feb. 1 meeting packet included sample payment schedule for acquiring parcels of land that used an overall price of $125,000. Young said that's probably "in the ballpark," but restrictions placed on the land would be among the factors employed to cut the actual price down to the anticipated less-that-fair-market-value level from whatever the appraisal determines is its unrestricted value.

For instance, restrictions could limit what the senior owners could do with the land, such as eliminating any possibility of later selling gravel dug from the acreage. That kind of limitation will be assigned a value at some point and subtracted from the unrestricted market value. The appraisal will not take into account any restrictions.

The Cooper Landing seniors have been working toward a senior complex for many years. Young said there were somewhere between 20 and 30 area seniors who are interested in moving into the facility.

The first structure to be built will be a six-plex with four two-bedroom apartments and two one-bedroom apartments.

Next would either be a second apartment unit or a senior center. Which one may depend on the availability of grant money. Young said there are far more grant sources for housing than for centers.

"Beyond that, we're talking about some kind of medical-dispensary-exercise facility," Young said. "Maybe even a pool."

At some point, an assisted-living facility would be added, he said.

The corporation mails out about 160 newsletters each month. Young said there were well over 100 members. According to the draft ordinance's text, 28 percent of Cooper Landing's population is 60 years or older. There is no senior housing within 35 miles.

The Cooper Landing corporation includes members from as far away as Hope, Moose Pass and the Primrose Creek area, Young said.

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