Mayor Dale Bagley said his desire to see borough-owned land at Point Possession put on the market is a reflection of his political philosophy that government-held real estate assets should be put in private hands.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly President Tim Navarre, however, insisted Tuesday that the Point Possession proposal is merely campaign politics on the part of the mayor, and that a sale now would be ill-timed.
The assembly voted to postpone until March 12 further action on Resolution 2002-025, proposed by the mayor, which would put 860 acres of land at Point Possession on the auction block in August.
"This is not political," Bagley said in an interview following Tuesday's assembly meeting. "It's more than campaign promises. Anyone who knows me knows that I have always pushed for getting land out on the market, and there are some philosophical differences ... beliefs about whether government should sit on land forever, or whether government should get land out in the hands of private individuals. We've had a lot of people in the private sector ask for land out there."
Navarre said Point Possession property lacks an access road and electrical services, rendering its market value very low. However, a federally funded project to extend the North Kenai Spur Highway into neighboring subdivisions already created by the borough -- Gray Cliff and Moose Point -- will bring the road closer to Point Possession.
In addition, there is some chance a power intertie line may one day pass through the Point Possession area, Navarre said. When those things happen, land values will rise, perhaps dramatically. That would be the time to put the land on the market, Navarre said.
"I don't believe this ordinance in front of the assembly is in the best interest of the borough," he said.
He said he could not in good conscience vote to auction the property -- which he said is owned by every borough resident -- before it had reached a value that would produce a decent return to the borough. He said if he did, he would deserve to be run out of office.
Assembly member Gary Superman of Nikiski asked for the postponement after expressing reservations about placing more borough land in private hands without benefit of safeguards that would prevent damage to the environment and uses incompatible with the recreational nature of the territory.
He said there are plenty of examples in the borough's unincorporated areas where commercial activities conflict with residential areas.
"Commercial activities that are not compatible in residential areas -- junkyards, halfway houses, certain agricultural uses -- these are going to happen out there," he said. Superman offered to work with the administration and the legal department to develop an amendment to the resolution that would address those issues.
Kenai resident Tim O'Brien said people have been asking the borough to put Point Possession land up for sale for years. He said one of the arguments frequently given for holding off is that lots in the Moose Point and Gray Cliff subdivisions remain unsold.
But he said there is a good reason why.
"The leftover lots through Gray Cliff and Moose Point are swampy and lowlands," he said.
Kenai attorney Blaine Gilman said the borough has yet to come to grips with the philosophy of moving land into private hands. Yet, he said, that was the ultimate intent of the state program that transfers land to the borough.
"It's time to put this property out," he said. "I'm not saying give it away. Have people pay fair market value for this property. People are going to want to purchase it. You're going to get a good price."
After the meeting, Navarre told Bagley that each of them are passionate about their points of view.
"You know we've had this fight before," Navarre said chuckling. "We're going to a have a friendly argument and that's going to be the end of it."
Bagley said he thinks he may be able to garner enough assembly votes to pass the land sale resolution. He noted that a similar resolution in 2000 actually passed, but later failed on reconsideration.
In other business, the assembly:
Approved spending $1.4 million for school capital maintenance and improvement projects, including one at Sears Elementary School that will move the school's office closer to the front entrance, making the school safer.
Postponed action on an ordinance that would set new regulations for subdivisions, requiring roads to be built to borough standards before final platting. Another public hearing is scheduled for March 12.
Postponed action on a negotiated long-term grazing lease for 40 acres of borough land near Swanson River Road. The land is a former landfill.
Approved a new lease and operating agreement between the borough and Central Peninsula General Hospital.
Reclassified 10 acres of borough land on Baycrest Hill in Homer as recreational so that it can become the new trailhead for a popular cross-country ski trail system there.
Peninsula Clarion ©2014. All Rights Reserved.