Kenai Peninsula Borough Land Management Offficer Marcus Mueller testifies before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Peninsula Borough Land Management Offficer Marcus Mueller testifies before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly OKs sale of borough land following debate

A live outcry auction is tentatively scheduled for the second week of August at Soldotna High School.

Almost 30 pieces of borough land will go up for sale next month following approval by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly during their July 6 meeting.

The 27 parcels approved for auction are scattered throughout the borough and range in size from .9 acres to 50.96 acres. General parcel locations include Nikiski’s Wik Lake, Hope, Soldotna, Caribou Island in Skilak Lake, Sterling, Cooper Landing, Homer and Beluga.

A live outcry auction is tentatively scheduled for the second week of August at Soldotna High School, with an over-the-counter sale scheduled to follow. Parcels are authorized for sale at “a minimum of the fair market value” as determined by the borough’s assessing department.

Approval of the legislation came after lengthy debate by the borough assembly over whether or not to exclude or change the classifications of some pieces of land, per the requests of members of the public.

Considered by the assembly Tuesday were two pieces of legislation: the first, an ordinance, authorized the sale of borough land, while the second, a resolution, classified those pieces of land as either rural or commercial.

The borough defines “rural” land as lands that are located in a remote area. When classified as “rural” the land has no restrictions.

The borough defines “commercial” lands as those “suitable for development” or for the location of “service oriented facilities.” Lands classified as “commercial” must be able to support on-site water and sewer systems, they must be near public utilities and they must be in proximity to residential areas.

“Service oriented facilities” may include stores, offices, restaurants, hotels and camper parks, among others.

However, not everyone agreed with how the borough classified certain pieces of land.

Residents living near a 2.05 acre piece of land off of Diamond Ridge Road in Homer, for example, said that the land shouldn’t be dubbed “rural” because it is located near other residences and because the adjacent road is frequently trafficked. Landowners living near the Wik Lake parcels in Nikiski said they were concerned about classifying the land as “rural with no restrictions.”

“The term “no restrictions” leads one to envision the development of potential condos, recreational buildings and attract visitors that would increase the number of people on the lake,” wrote John and Tami Johnson, of Nikiski. “Wik Lake has few houses on it and is home to many birds. Residents use it for kayaking and enjoy the peace and quiet the lake provides.”

Undoubtedly the most contentious land of the evening were 10 of the 11 parcels in Homer, which the borough classified as “commercial.” The parcels, which encompass 25 acres total, are located between Little Fireweed Lane and Spruce Lane, near Millers Landing.

Homer resident Rika Mouw asked the assembly to “step back” and leave control of the land to Homer agencies, citing concerns about the environment preservation of the Beluga Wetlands Complex.

“The (10) 2.5 acre parcels are heavily vegetated with irreplaceable mature birch, mature spruce trees and there is moving and surface water and ponding through out the land,” Mouw wrote. “This area is obviously heavily used by moose through out, i.e. trails, bedding spots and browse. The incremental loss of tree coverage, loss of carbon sequestering peatland and valuable habitat for moose, especially critical winter habitat, is becoming notable and very concerning.”

Attention was also called to a unanimous recommendation from the borough’s Planning Commission that the assembly remove the 10 Homer parcels from the legislation altogether.

Assembly member Willy Dunne, who represents the South Peninsula, said the assembly should give more consideration to the public comments and recommendations on the land.

“We encourage the public to come and testify and give their good ideas to these local bodies and then we thumb our noses at them and say we’re not going to adopt anything that [they] suggested — it really, really rubs me the wrong way,” Dunne said. “I think that as an assembly we should really pay close attention to the public that comes out and testifies in good faith, especially when the planning commission unanimously asks us to make certain modifications to the sale.”

Efforts to remove the 10 pieces of land via amendments to the legislation failed. The ordinance authorizing the sale ultimately passed by a vote of 7-1 with Dunne voting in opposition.

Tuesday’s full assembly meeting can be viewed on the borough’s website at kpb.us.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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