Why is it that a private developer can get a street paved for $38,000 when it costs the city of Soldotna $400,000?
That was one of the questions city council members had last week when considering the establishment of a special assessment district to pave North Aspen Drive and a request to partner with a developer to pave part of East Redoubt Avenue.
Patrick O’Neill is developing a subdivision on East Redoubt with 17 one-acre lots, two streets and a cul-de-sac. As required by city code, he has built the gravel streets up to paving grade, and said he would like the city to chip in about half $17,000 to pave the streets.
At the same time, the city is considering paving North Aspen the street that runs in front of Cad Re Feed and behind the 4D Carpet building, Froso’s Restaurant and Robinson and Associates law offices. The estimated cost is $423,000.
In O’Neill’s subdivision, the length of street paving is 1,100 feet. North Aspen Drive is 1,600 feet long.
So why the big difference in cost?
“The major difference: Patrick O’Neill just finished building the new road up to city standards,” said Steve Bonebrake, Soldotna Public Works director.
“On Aspen, we need to take out the top 18 inches of material; we need concrete curbs and gutters and underground storm drains; the utilities are already in at Aspen and we have to work around them,” Bonebrake said.
In O’Neill’s subdivision, one-half mile past the Fred Meyer store, the streets will only be strip-paved, meaning asphalt will be laid down on top of the new streets, and no curbs or gutters will be installed.
“I don’t have to include the prevailing wage; the street is brand new; and the grade is there,” O’Neill said on Friday.
“If we do it now, it will cost a whole lot less. I’m trying to avoid what’s happening on North Aspen,” he said.
Because of the debate at the meeting last week, nothing is happening on North Aspen.
Attorney Arthur Robinson, who identified himself as a property owner on Aspen, said, “When I first saw the assessment I was aghast that it would cost so much for one block.
“Over 50 percent of the owners object to the special assessment district and I would appreciate if the council not override the objection,” Robinson said.
Each property owner along North Aspen Drive is being assessed $16,269.20 per lot, regardless of the lot size.
Robinson’s lot one-fifth as wide as the 4D Carpet Building lot carries the same $16,000 assessment.
In the case of 4D, Robinson and Froso’s, North Aspen Drive is little more than the alley behind their businesses, which actually front the Kenai Spur Highway.
Ted Forsi, who owns four of the lots that front Aspen, said, “On Nov. 17, 2003, I brought a petition to pave Aspen Street.
“I believe we would have had more than 50 percent in favor if the two owners on the corner of Corral (Avenue) would have been included.”
Through a city error, the owners of the end lots on North Aspen Drive where it intersects with Corral were omitted.
It was believed they had been included in a special assessment district on Corral, which would have made them exempt from paying into in yet another paving district, according to City Manager Tom Boedeker.
The section of Corral where their property is, however, was not involved in a previous special assessment district.
Regardless, Forsi said, “I think it would be a major improvement for the city.”
“I contest the paving,” said Karen Williamson, owner of one lot fronting North Aspen. “The road doesn’t need paving and I can’t afford it.”
She also said she felt it is unfair that one owner with five lots in one parcel is being assessed the same $16,000 she is being assessed for having only one lot.
Williamson said paving North Aspen would also create a safety hazard.
“You pave it ... people are going to go faster,” she said, adding it would then become a safety issue in an area so close to a school. The back side of Soldotna Elementary School faces Corral Avenue.
Because owners of the two lots at the Corral Avenue end of North Aspen were not solicited, Council member Sharon Moock said the city should not approve the project, but rather should go back and ask all owners if they favor paving.
Boedeker said doing so would put North Aspen paving into the next construction season.
The council postponed action until its first meeting in September, instructing the city administration to create a hybrid method of assessing property owners.
With regard to the O’Neill subdivision, some council members agreed the city would get a great deal getting a street paved for $17,000, but others pointed out three neighborhoods already are on a waiting list to have their streets paved, having been told there’s no money.
Bonebrake also said, “If we agree to split the cost with (O’Neill) what are other developers going to ask us to do?”
A 40-acre subdivision and a 70-acre subdivision are currently in the works in Soldotna.
Mayor Dave Carey said, “Clearly the council is interested in pursuing creating a policy,” and he asked Boedeker to look into it.
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