Kenai business owners deluging city hall with complaints about recent hikes in their property assessments wrongly assumed the increases were linked to plans of Wal-Mart and Lowe's coming to town.
"It was coincidental," said Kenai Peninsula Borough Assessor Shane Horan on Wednesday.
"Last year, Soldotna business assessments went up 22 to 25 percent," he said. This year, his office reassessed Kenai.
The assessor's office began using a new computer program two years ago, giving the assessor the ability to perform land modeling, something it could not do in the past.
Horan described land modeling as developing land types such as residential, residential river front or residential lake front.
Two years ago, the land modeling was applied to properties on the south peninsula including Kachemak Bay, Horan said.
"Last year we did Soldotna; this year Kenai," he said.
Members of the assessor's office physically inspected all properties in Kenai in addition to developing land models for them.
An extreme example of change in Kenai assessments is the proposed Wal-Mart property.
According to Horan, the property now is valued at more than $3 million.
"Prior to (Wal-Mart's announced interest) we had $2,000 or $3,000 on that property," he said.
When asked for an approximate average increase in Kenai, Horan said, "Overall it went up 15 percent on real property."
Residential assessments went up 16 percent on average and commercial property went up between 15 and 16 percent, he said.
Horan said it takes his office between five and six years to re-canvass the entire borough.
In response to complaints emanating from Kenai City Hall, Horan met on Tuesday with Mayor Pat Porter and other city administrators and the assessor offered to conduct a town hall type meeting for residents and business owners.
"I'm waiting for the mayor or (City Manager) Rick Koch to schedule a meeting," Horan said.
Although Wal-Mart and Lowe's Home Improvement Centers have publicly announced plans to build large retail centers in Kenai, Horan said the recent increased assessments were strictly coincidental to the plans.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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