January 13, 2011 |

Point acquisition hits questions, criticism

Real estate agent Jim Studley said Picture Point owner Roger Beasley is interested in working with the Haines Borough to acquire two scenic pullouts there, including terms that would provide time for the municipality to use scenic highway funds for a purchase.

"We’ve offered a very liberal acquisition process," Studley said in an interview.

Picture Point has been the subject of several, hour-long Haines Borough Assembly executive sessions in the past two months. It’s not clear that the municipality has drawn any closer to acquiring land there.

Borough manager Mark Earnest this week said he had no update on the process, but said another executive session to discuss Picture Point might be scheduled for the Tuesday, Jan. 25, assembly meeting.

Beasley, an Austin, Texas-based car dealer who also owns Lynn View Lodge, purchased the five-acre strip of waterfront in October. The two pullouts amount to about half the acreage there.

"The borough keeps coming up with more questions they want answered and there’s a lot of pressure on the assembly to not go ahead with this… There are a lot of influential people in Haines who don’t want this to happen, and they’re making themselves known," Studley said.

Mayor Jan Hill and State Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, are among leaders who voiced opposition or questions about municipal ownership of the property, a photo from which now serves as the profile photo on the Haines, Alaska Facebook page.

At the Dec. 28 assembly meeting, resident Jerry Erny called potential borough acquisition of Picture Point "completely inappropriate."

"While our taxes rise, we’re going to take this high-quality piece of property off our tax rolls, whether it’s partially or completely," Erny said. "Who gets to make up the difference, with all these monies?"

He also voiced disapproval of the borough’s repeated use of executive sessions.

Resident Jim Turnbull cited his own increasing property values and taxes in the borough and said Picture Point would be better suited for business use.

"Now you’re wanting to take property out of the tax rolls and make it into someplace where somebody can stop and take a picture," Turnbull said. "I would suggest you let the tour companies buy that piece of property, and keep it on the tax rolls."

Studley said irrespective of his business interest in a sale, the pullouts are worth saving. "I’m against our downtown waterfront being filled if it’s not really necessary."

Uses for the beachfront land other than a house or a church require a conditional use permit, he said. If the borough doesn’t acquire the pullouts, they may end up looking like other sections of Lutak Road where homes straddle the beach, Studley said.

"I don’t necessarily think that’s bad," he said. "I won’t stand in the way of a developer wanting to put homes on the most beautiful beachfront in Haines. I’m just saying, as a community, we have a choice."

Studley said Beasley is open to a creative deal. "That’s the type of direction we’ve always been going on this. We always knew the borough was strapped for money."