Soldotna balks at Habitat donation

Posted: Friday, September 12, 2008

Soldotna lawmakers balked at giving a $19,000 piece of property to Habitat for Humanity, which is seeking the donation in order to give a family a leg up toward the American dream.

After the city informed the organization that one of two lots in the Mooring Estates Subdivision not far from Soldotna High School "might be available for donation to Habitat for Humanity," central Kenai Peninsula Habitat President Bill Radtke told the city's Planning and Zoning Commission in March, the donation would be welcomed.

Habitat would like to build a single-family home in 2008 or 2009, Radtke said in a letter to Planning and Zoning.

In April, without a formal resolution, the commission recommended the city council donate the single lot "subject to conditions including deed restrictions to ensure the city receives full market value compensation for the donated parcel should the Habitat home be foreclosed upon."

After a considerable amount of questioning of Radtke during Wednesday's city council meeting, council members failed to act on the donation.

City Manager Larry Semmens told the council that city staff members in April recommended donating the lot at the corner of Marydale Avenue and Brentwood Drive.

"This parcel, which I consider very valuable, is about the only one we have (to donate)," Semmens said. "At $20,000 it would be a sizeable donation."

According to a memo from City Planner Stephanie Queen, the 2008 certified land value as assessed by the Kenai Peninsula Borough is $19,400.

Councilman and borough Assessor Shane Horan asked Radtke if Habitat for Humanity had approached the city of Kenai for donated lots.

Radtke answered affirmatively, saying Kenai City Manager Rick Koch "offered to give 'em to us for back taxes (owed)."

"We don't have the finances," Radtke said. "We're going through the process."

He also said the borough had previously donated six lots to Habitat.

"The city (of Kenai) had nothing to do with it," Radtke said.

He said Habitat would like to build something in Soldotna next year, and the organization is continuing to pursue the lots in Kenai.

Considering the fact that the Mooring Estates lot is zoned multiple-family residential, Horan asked whether a better value could be achieved by building something other than a single-family house, such as a duplex or triplex.

Radtke said, "You're lookin' at $146,000 to get to that next stage ... a duplex."

Councilman Peter Micciche said he thinks donating "a $20,000 lot to one family is pretty substantial."

If the original owner of the Habitat house chooses to sell, Councilman Ed Sleater said he wants to be sure the city could recoup the original value of the donated property.

"Our lawyer said have the city write (the contract) any way they need to," said Radtke. "As it is, Habitat for Humanity has the first option."

Micciche wanted to know if Habitat approached the borough for land donations.

"No, we need water and sewer," said Radtke. "If we put them in, the cost gets prohibitive."

Councilman Jim Stogsdill said if the council can come to some agreement on a donation, he would recommend the city administration talk with Habitat about it.

Mayor Dave Carey asked Semmens to research what needs to be done in order to protect the city's interests.

In other business, the council unanimously approved rezoning a lot on Kobuk Street from single family-two family to multi-family residential in order to allow owners Patrick and Cristina Johnson to build an assisted living home for five adults.

The council also appointed students Theresa Ramponi and Ben Baldwin to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Airport Commission respectively. An ex-officio student representative position remains open on the Soldotna City Council.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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