Too often, it's when things go wrong they get noticed. Let something go right, and it barely gets a nod.
This is particularly true when government is involved -- in fact, when government is in the picture, the expectation may be something is bound to go wrong.
Fortunately, reality sometimes runs contradictory to stereotypical expectations. Something went very right at last month's borough land sale -- and it deserves some attention.
It wasn't the borough's land sale itself that was particularly noteworthy. It was where some of the land was sold and what happened or, more accurately, what didn't happen.
Among the land put before bidders at a public outcry auction Oct. 20, were 11 wooded lots in the Russian Gap subdivision in Cooper Landing. Nine of those lots sold at the auction; another sold "over the counter" the following Monday; the last remains for sale "over the counter."
A little more than 100 acres of land in Cooper Landing was put into private hands -- without a hue and cry. For years, Cooper Landing land issues have been synonymous with controversy and contentious discussion. Yet, this land sale went forward without opposition.
Borough officials and the residents of the community worked together. It was a lengthy process. There was some give and take on both sides. The borough agreed to put in a road and utilities to ease community concerns about the development. Lot sizes were made larger. The borough is taking a conservative approach to how much land it sells in the community in a year.
In other words, the process worked like it should.
It's not the only example. A parcel in Nikiski originally scheduled for the auction block was pulled off after the community spoke up because the land included part of a popular trail system.
Concerned citizens and elected officials put their heads together and hit upon a compromise to make everyone happy. The parcel was divided in half; the half with the ski trails will go to the school district, the other half is expected to be sold next year.
It's easy to blast government for not listening to the people, but now and again we all need to be reminded that lots of times -- probably even most of the time -- things work as they should. The borough land sale is a good example. A little communication goes a long way in making things work right.
On a snowy Saturday morning, the assembly chambers were packed full of people for the auction. Twenty-four parcels were offered for sale at the auction, including 11 from the Russian Gap subdivision.
Fifteen of those parcels sold for a total sale value of $1.251 million -- about 7 percent above the fair market value. On the following Monday when the parcels became available over the counter, two more sold immediately.
In fact, Mayor Dale Bagley said when he arrived at work at 6:45 a.m. that Monday, someone was already waiting in line to make a purchase. He had been waiting since 4:15 a.m. to ensure he was first in line for the particular parcel he wanted. Now, that's excitement.
Although many parcels went for the minimum bid in the sale, at least two went far beyond the minimum bid. One 40-acre parcel sold for $86,000; it's minimum bid was $32,000. A 37-acre lot north of Kasilof with a view of Cook Inlet and the Alaska Range started at $38,200; it sold for $63,000.
A mix of private individuals and developers were the purchasers of the property. Seven parcels remain for sale "over the counter."
Private ownership of land is a huge part of the American dream. Lots of land -- by most standards, too much land -- in Alaska is in some government entity's hand.
It's worth noting when some of that land is made available to private individuals at a fair market price (this was no government give-away), and the process goes without a hitch. Hats off to those who made it possible, and congratulations to the successful bidders.
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