HOMER -- Buying and selling land was the topic at Tuesday's Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly meeting in Homer.
An ordinance authorizing $121,000 to purchase two lots adjoining the South Peninsula Hospital was first up for consideration. Details concerning negotiations for the acquisition raised eyebrows.
Chris Moss, who represents that area of Homer, said the owner of the lots, Guy Chow, of Burbank, Calif., was uninterested in selling the lots when first approached by the hospital's service area board.
"He finally called back and asked for $100,000," Moss said.
When the board countered with $90,000, Chow raised his figure to $125,000. The board agreed to pay $120,000.
Assembly President Tim Navarre delivered the understatement of the evening.
"I would say the negotiations went the wrong way," he said.
A 1998 appraisal completed by Derry and Associates estimated the combined market value of the two lots at $53,500. The borough assessing department completed an appraisal in July 2001, and declared the assessed value to be $17,600 for each parcel, or $35,200 total.
However, the Aug. 13 minutes of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission reported that the hospital's service area board and the operating board requested approval of the $120,000 purchase because "they believe the hospital needs the property to better serve the service area, and the seller is unwilling to sell the property for a lesser sum."
"Paying $300,000 an acre is an outrageous amount to pay, and that's what it works out to," said Kenai assembly member Bill Popp. "This is truly someone trying to blackmail the hospital into paying money that they shouldn't pay."
The assembly postponed action until the Nov. 6 meeting. Prior to that time, the service board was directed to obtain an independent assessment. The assembly also is considering the option of eminent domain, which would require the owner to accept the appraised price, according to Moss.
When it came to the sale of borough-owned land, the assembly heard from Nikiski residents who drove to Homer to make sure their concerns were heard. Being considered were 27 parcels of land for an outcry public auction. Of specific interest to the individuals testifying was the proposed residential classification for two parcels near Suneva Lake.
Stan Huhndorf Jr. and his mother, Caroline Huhndorf, 86, previously urged the assembly toward a preservation classification for one of the parcels. Stan Huhndorf, who was raised on his parents' homestead on the lake and now lives on a piece of lake property a short distance away, testified on behalf of his mother, who was too ill to attend.
He asked the assembly to consider the concerns of pioneers and others who live in the area. He drew a verbal picture of canoeing across the undisturbed water and enjoying the wildlife that makes the lake their home.
He appreciated "the gesture of the mayor to get land moving," but reminded the assembly that once land is made available to private enterprise, its development is "out of your control."
"Take your time, please," Huhndorf said.
Passing the gavel to assembly vice president Pete Sprague, of Soldotna, Navarre voiced his respect for the pioneers that opened up the area and asked the assembly to join him in assuring pioneers that the assembly was giving the matter a "long hard look."
The assembly unanimously agreed to remove one Suneva Lake parcel from the auction and voted 7 to 1 in favor of removing the second parcel. Paul Fischer cast the opposing vote, saying the resolution was scheduled for another public hearing, and he wanted to give members of the community the additional opportunity to comment.
Huhndorf was pleased with the assembly's action.
"I'm doing this for the reason that it's what Mom would have liked and for other people in the area," he said. "I would hate to see an RV park or a lawn right to the waterfront. There's an extensive ecosystem there."
He suggested that in the future, the sale of borough-owned land be coordinated with area residents.
"You need to touch base with the community and hear them out," Huhndorf said.
Nikiski assembly member Mark Powell welcomed feedback from other members of the community, urging great participation by the public at assembly meetings.
"Its hard for me to react to what my constituents want me to do when there's, in my view, not enough people attending borough assembly meetings," he said. "I know a lot of good people in my area and would like to hear what they have to say."
Popp took advantage of closing comments to urge peninsula residents to exercise their freedom to vote on Oct. 2. This election marks a first for one of his children.
"I will be taking my daughter to the polls personally," he said. "This is one of the great events in life, and I want to be there to watch it."
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.