Concerns raised over land donation plan for volcano center

Posted: Monday, April 24, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- Concerns are being raised over a nonprofit corporation's plans to build a volcano learning center in Stariski.

Bob Favretto, president of the North Pacific Volcano Learning Center Inc., said Friday that construction of the $12.5-million facility would be a huge economic boost to the lower peninsula.

''The construction and the vendors that take place in building that kind of facility is pretty exciting,'' he said. ''It has to swell the economic development of that area...''

But some are questioning whether the Kenai Peninsula Borough should give the corporation the land for the center.

''I don't see this as economic development,'' Soldotna's Susan Gibson last week told the borough assembly. ''I see it as a pet project that's going to cost taxpayers a lot of money in the end.''

Corporation officials convinced the assembly two years ago to buy 80 acres by the mouth of Stariski Creek. The assembly agreed to pay $315,000 for the land, which sold for $400,000. The corporation agreed to contribute the remaining $85,000, and the borough bought the land.

The corporation, however, has been unable to apply for grants with the borough holding the title, said Steve Noey of the firm Locher Interests LLC in Anchorage.

Assembly members Tim Navarre and Drew Scalzi on Tuesday introduced an ordinance to give the land to the corporation for $1. However, ownership would revert to the borough if the corporation failed to raise $5 million for the center within five years.

The borough also would take back the land if it ever ceased being used to support the volcano center, preserve the Stariski Creek estuary and provide public trails.

A public hearing on the proposal is planned for May 16 in Soldotna.

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