Denali Borough prepares to accept land grant

Posted: Monday, May 22, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Denali Borough is preparing to accept 16,000 acres from the state as its first land grant under the Municipal Entitlement Act.

The act allows local governments to choose up to 10 percent of the land they encompass.

''This is very significant for the borough,'' said borough land use technician Gail Pieknik. ''It's the most land we will own.''

The borough currently owns small plots in the city of Anderson, the landfill near Clear, and the transfer station in Cantwell.

Borough officials are looking for ideas from residents about what to do with the new parcels, 25 square miles of land in all, located near Anderson, Healy and Denali National Park and Preserve.

''The Denali Borough has no property tax so the only way we can make revenue off it at this time is to sell it or lease it,'' said Borough Mayor John C. Gonzales.

The grant comes after borough officials spent years looking for parcels to select. Pieknik said officials tried to have an eye for development when looking for land.

One parcel, called Montana Creek, is near the entrance to Denali National Park and Preserve.

''It's a really choice piece to have near the canyon area,'' Pieknik said. ''There's a good possibility for commercial development.''

Arlan DeYong, municipal entitlement project manager for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, said the land the borough chooses must be vacant and of no use to the state or the federal government.

If the selections pass that criteria, there are virtually no other strings attached.

''The borough can use it for whatever development it needs,'' DeYong said. ''They can build fire stations, schools, or they can sell it.''

The Denali Borough Assembly has created a land use planning committee to make recommendations on what to do with the land but the committee has not made any decisions.

''No plans at the moment,'' said committee chairman Tim Venechuk. ''We're just getting the land acquired. It's a long, drawn-out process with the state and we're just tickled that some of it is finally coming through.''

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