Assembly moves on Picture Point
The Haines Borough on Tuesday voted 4-2 to authorize manager Mark Earnest to negotiate the purchase of all or a portion of Picture Point for up to $750,000.
Earnest told the assembly he’d been approached by a person interested in discussing a method for the borough to acquire a part of the five-acre property, ostensibly one or both of the two scenic pullouts on the south end of the five-acre parcel.
"The parties involved wish to have negotiations protected because of financial issues. That is allowable and I have entered into a non-disclosure agreement to have those discussions. I have not received anything official but I think it would be potentially a good opportunity if we can work something out, at least to hear what that proposal is," Earnest told the assembly.
He described the discussions as an opportunity to hear specifics and said authorization doesn’t obligate the borough to anything. "The next step would be to bring that proposal back to the assembly."
Earnest’s account jibes with recent information from current property owner Narada Trust. Attorney Mary Nordale, who oversees the trust, said she’d accepted an offer on the property but that the prospective owner was interested in speaking to the borough about its interest in the land.
Assemblymen Scott Rossman and Jerry Lapp voted against the authorization. "Where is that three-quarters of a million dollars going to come from? Are we going to do this just like that?" he asked.
Lapp, who frequently advocates sale of borough lands to the public, said he wasn’t willing to spend any more money on land until the borough sells some.
Member Joanne Waterman pointed out that borough acquisition of the scenic pullouts was part of the borough’s comprehensive plan. "The public has a lot of interest in this but there hasn’t been much public discussion. Maybe this will make it more of a public discussion."
Member Norm Smith was emphatic in his support of acquiring the land. "It’s an incredibly attractive spot and we’d be remiss to say the least…not to pursue this. I don’t want to see pizza trailers out there on Picture Point."
Smith said he’s seen hazardous parking where the pullouts have been blocked off during the summer. "The borough is holding more cards here. If anybody’s going to develop it, the borough would be more apt to do so."
Smith said he was confident there would be grant funds available to help the borough purchase the land. "We built the library. We built the school. We’re going to build the convention center and we’re going to get Picture Point, and I want to be part of that process."
Assemblyman Steve Vick said authorization was worthwhile, even if only to get more information on possible borough acquisition. "My impression is the community doesn’t want this property to disappear." Vick asked Earnest also to recommend to the assembly sources of funds for acquisition.
Rossman was as emphatically opposed as Smith was supportive. "I have a thousand reasons against it. I couldn’t be further from Norm on this."
Marcheta Moulton, who coordinates the Scenic Byways program for the state Department of Transportation, this week confirmed that the borough is eligible to receive program funds to purchase such property. "It is a possibility," she said.
Former owner Burke Riley had left the property open to public use for decades. Riley’s death put the land into the hands of the trust. Trustee Nordale said she’s duty bound to maximize earnings from the land.
The property has been for sale for about one year.