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Letter to Mental Health will ask for suspension of Papke's land sale


Submitted Illustration

The assembly voted Monday to write a letter to the Mental Health Trust Land Office asking them to postpone the sale of Lots 5, 6 and 7, depicted on this map of the Trust's 2014 land sale parcels.

The Petersburg Borough Assembly unanimously voted at Monday's meeting to send a letter to the Petersburg Mental Health Land Trust asking them to postpone the sale of three land parcels near Papke's Landing.

Assembly member Bob Lynn brought the motion to the assembly after being approached by a number of residents, he said.

"My motion would be a letter to Mental Health Trust asking to hold off on the sale of lots 5, 6 and 7 at this time. And I would also ask that we put into the letter that we would be willing to work with them in our land selection process to be able to acquire this as part of the Borough in exchange (for other lots)," Lynn said.

The lots are located on the south side of Papke's Landing Road and are situated near the boat launch parking area.

"When you look at those (lots) in the long term, it probably should be for the public interest," Lynn said. "That area is going to be a center for public use for a long time, in my opinion."

Assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor said he thinks the letter is a good idea, but asked Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht why he thought Mental Health would go for it.

"I don't know that it will be successful, but I think it's worth a chance," Giesbrecht said.

He added that the land swap offer is probably the component Mental Health is least likely to accept. "I think getting the Trust to say we'll not sell those three lots under the assumption that we may come back later and buy those three lots, I think, is probably more likely," he said.

In June 2013 the Petersburg Borough Assembly voted to start the application process for the land, which included filing an application with and paying a $500 fee to the Trust. The next step in process was for the Borough to pay to have the land appraised and then pay 10 percent above the appraised value within a limited time period, according to Giesbrecht.

"I believe the time period was like 30 days," he said.

Because of some unknowns regarding facilities owned by other state agencies near the property, including the Alaska Department of Transportation (ADOT) which owns the Papke's dock and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) which owns the ramp, the purchase stalled.

"That didn't go well (the appraisal process) because we were still waiting for the DOT process and really couldn't bring it to the assembly until we got some more clarity around that. In the meantime, the application expired," Giesbrecht said. After which time the Trust decided to put the lots up for sale.

In a phone interview, Giesbrecht said that ADOT has verbally stated that they want to give the facilities they own to the Borough, but nothing has been stated in writing. Without clear terms and a formal offer on the dock, the Borough is hesitant to proceed with the land sale.

"It wouldn't make a lot of sense to the Borough to buy the property if the Borough was not going to end up owning the dock," he said. "We want that listed out as far as what they are offering: Are they offering just the facilities with no money? Are they offering the facilities with a certain amount of money? And then is that money enough to fix the facilities?"

If ADOT were to give the Borough the dock without offering funds, fixing the facility could cost the Borough millions of dollars in repair work.

"The Borough is trying to be fiscally responsible here in the sense that we don't want to take on the Papke's dock unless we know what we're getting into and that can be publicly talked about. And that goes along with the property in the sense that, if we're not going to end up with the dock, why buy the property?"

At the meeting, assembly member John Havrilek harkened back to last year's attempt at the purchase saying, "I think sending the letter that we're talking about would just signal the start of what Steve (Giesbrecht) just mentioned, that Mental Health's going to return with, 'OK, you have 30 days to buy this property.' And I don't want to get into that because we don't know what else is there (with ADOT and DNR)."

Assembly member Cindi Lagoudakis said that regardless of Mental Health's response to the letter, it was worth sending.

"We lose the opportunity either way. If we don't respond then the chances are that somebody's going to buy those properties. This (letter) at least could set the clock back a little bit, potentially, and give us a little bit more time to come up with a response," Lagaoudakis said.

The lots in question go up for sale this fall.


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