For some, like the 17 neighbors who signed a petition supporting the purchase, the small undeveloped lot on Soldotna’s Riverview Avenue belongs in the hands of a neighboring property owner who has been tending to it for years.
But critics of a city council-generated proposal to sell the lot said the council was not acting fairly when it pulled the lot from a list of those available in the city’s public auction and elected to sell it directly to the neighboring property owner, rather than to the highest bidder.
At least one other organization, Habitat for Humanity, contacted the city in writing to express interest in buying the Riverview property. However Soldotna City Planner Stephanie Queen, said she told prospective buyers for all of the parcels included in the land sale that city administration was recommending the lots for purchase at auction rather than through sole-source negotiation with the city.
The one-third acre lot, which acts as a buffer between Riverview Park and Marcus and Lisa Guidry’s home, is primarily covered in cottonwood and birch trees — though the Guidrys have maintained a 10-foot green space between the woods and the road.
“We like to sit outside in the summer and it’s just a nice piece of land,” he said after the council decision to sell the lot to him.
Buying the lot also meant that the Guidrys could maintain the quality of their neighborhood, he said.
They’ve been interested in buying the plot for several years.
City administration has records of the Guidrys attempting to purchase the property dating back to 2009.
“It’s obvious that the Guidrys have brought forward some past history on wanting to purchase this property,” said council member Regina Daniels, during an April meeting when the council voted to remove the questioned property from the list of those to be put up for auction. “(That) side of the street is spotless all of the time.”
But some residents thought differently.
Penny Vadla spoke during a public hearing on the meeting and asked why the city would favor the Guidrys request to purchase the property through sole-source negotiation over other requests to buy other parcels available in the land sale.
“I think you’re setting a precedent that might not be fair and equitable to everybody,” said Vadla during an April 22 city council meeting.
Council members Meggean Bos and Pete Sprague opposed the sale. Both said they had reservations about favoring one party over another in the sale.
“I get the point that the neighbors … have taken care of this land,” Bos said during the council’s Wednesday meeting. “But at the same time, the other properties that we currently have on the market have people who have contacted us … and we ended up putting those other six parcels on the market for a sealed bid.”
Council members also wrestled with the idea that the Guidrys would be purchasing the property for $30,000, or the price the borough set as a minimum bid when it was to be considered for sealed auction.
Currently, the property is assessed by the borough at $33,300. The Guidrys got an estimate of fair market value at $27,492, according to documents they submitted to the council.
Council members wondered if the city could get more money if the parcel was up for public auction. Council member Keith Baxter disputed that notion.
“I would say we’re not in the business of making a profit off of our residents from land sales,” he said, during an April meeting.
After the council voted to sell the property to the Guidrys, Marcus Guidry said he and his wife did not have plans to develop it any time soon.
“We’re just going to enjoy it right now,” he said.
Reach Rashah McChesney at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens.