Kenai Peninsula Borough officials are making plans for what could be the biggest sale of borough land since the early 1980s.
Close to 1,200 acres soon could go on the block, said Robert Bright, borough planning director. His staff already is preparing proposals to classify 80 acres off Tote Road just south of Soldotna for residential development and 145 acres off Murwood Drive near Bridge Access Road for residential and commercial use.
If the assembly approves, those parcels and several smaller ones already classified for development could be sold this fall, said Max Best, borough surveyor.
The administration also is preparing proposals to sell 120 acres in Cooper Landing and roughly 800 acres near Point Possession. However, those sales are unlikely to be ready this fall, Best said.
"If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen, but we're going to try," said Mayor Dale Bagley.
The last borough sales as big as the coming proposals were the 5,274-acre Gray Cliff subdivision in 1982 and the 7,560-acre Moose Point subdivision in 1984. Best said 554 Gray Cliff and Moose Point lots are now in private hands and 54 are in foreclosure. The borough is still trying to sell the remaining 237 lots.
Land sales were a major plank in Bagley's election campaign.
"He's always been politically motivated to get land out of the government's hands and into the people's hands," Best said. "He's going to stand by that."
Bagley said his agreement when he visited Cooper Landing last winter was to put about 100 acres on the market there each year.
"We're going to stick to that," he said. "You've been around me long enough to know I want to make land available."
Assembly president Bill Popp of Kenai said he could not comment on the specifics of proposals in the works, because he had not seen them.
"I've always been a believer that we need sales of borough land to the public where it's feasible and prudent," he said. "On the face of it, it sounds good to me. This needs assembly approval. Of course, we're going to give it very close scrutiny."
Popp said he would oppose mass borough land sales that could flood the market and depress prices. Other than that, he said, it is a question of whether particular parcels are appropriate for sale and of how they would be offered.
Best said he hopes to bring proposed Tote Road and Murwood land-use classifications before the borough planning commission May 22 and before the borough assembly on June 20. If the assembly approves those, an ordinance authorizing the actual sales would come later.
Two 1.5-acre parcels along Snug Harbor Road in Cooper Landing also are up for classification, Best said, one for preservation and one for residential use. However, he does not expect the borough to sell the residential parcel this year.
The borough actually owns 160 acres off Tote Road and more land beyond that. The 160 acres lies along Rex's Road and Tanadak Street, which has yet to be built. Bright has hired Segesser Surveys to survey the land but expects the borough to sell just two 40-acre parcels this year. Best said those already have access from which buyers could develop subdivision roads.
"It's nice view property with views of Cook Inlet and Redoubt," Bagley said. "That would be a nice subdivision that would be a good asset to the borough, if it's done properly."
There is lots of land available on the central peninsula, he said, but there is not much available with views like that.
"That's what I had in mind with Tote Road, because I don't think it competes with other property," he said.
The administration proposes to classify the Tote Road land as "rural," which means there would be no restrictions on development, Best said. Neighborhood residents can raise any concerns before the borough planning commission.
"If people don't like the wide-open classification, if they want it residential, they'll raise those concerns," Best said.
The Murwood parcel lies behind Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association and the former Kenai Supply building on Kalifornsky Beach Road. Best said much of that land is wetlands, but some is suitable for development. The administration likely will propose classifying 45 acres for commercial use and 100 acres for residential use.
Robert Ruffner, project coordinator for the Kenai Watershed Forum, said an unnamed creek and wetlands there provide important habitat for young silver salmon. The Tote Road land is a good candidate for development, he said. The Murwood land could be developed, he said, but it would take forethought to avoid harming salmon.
"Probably the biggest thing is how they treat (stream) crossings because culverts have not been very friendly to our creeks," he said.
Bagley said it may be possible to access the land by existing roads with no new culverts.
Best said the borough could sell the bad land with the good or retain the wetlands for preservation. However, he said, "Our philosophy is that development standards today protect it, because you're not going to be able to get permits to fill the wetlands."
In Cooper Landing, Bagley has hired Northern Test Lab to survey an access road and design the proposed 120-acre Russian Gap subdivision. The land already is classified for residential development in the borough's Cooper Landing land-use plan. The contractor will present ideas to the Cooper Landing Advisory Planning Commission on Wednesday.
"Based on comments, he'll winnow it down, visit the advisory planning commission again and develop a plat," said planning director Bright.
He said the borough may build an access road and subdivide the land into 15- or 20-acre parcels. It would be up to the buyers to subdivide those and build the subdivision roads. Or, they could keep the larger parcels.
"If they did subdivide, we'd probably make them conform to the (borough's) conceptual plan," he said.
Best said those plans could change as the contractor works with the community.
Nikiski residents have campaigned for a homesteading program on 8,129 acres the borough owns by Point Possession. That land already is classified for rural use. Bright said he would like to test the market with the sale of about 22 lots from the southern end of a 1996 conceptual subdivision design.
The inland lots in the conceptual plan range from 25 to 84 acres in size. Along the Cook Inlet bluff, Bright proposes offering lots of about 10 acres each, sightly larger than those in the 1996 plan. He hopes to have the land surveyed this summer.
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