Owner Roger Beasley has offered the Haines Borough up to three acres at "Picture Point" and is willing to carry a note for the purchase price up to five years or until alternative funding is secured.
The borough recently released an analysis of purchase options for the site, ranging from 1.4 to 3 acres. Three acres would include both "pullouts" at the site, plus a slender piece of beachfront connecting the pullouts to Front Street. The 1.4-acre option includes only the northern pullout.
The analysis includes impacts on public finances. It says the borough could gain as much as $36,800 per year in property taxes if the entire five acres Beasley purchased in October were to be developed, with homes on half-acre lots. The borough’s gain would drop to $13,200 if three acres were left undeveloped or held in public ownership, the analysis says.
The five acres currently is assessed at $230,970 and brings in $2,600 annually in property taxes.
The borough’s analysis noted that the Haines Coastal Management Program and the Haines Tourism Management Plan highlighted the importance of scenic views.
The borough assembly met in executive session last week to discuss possible borough acquisition of Picture Point, despite concerns that the session should be open to the public.
Mayor Jan Hill voted against an open session, following a 3-3 tie with assembly members Greg Goodman, Jerry Lapp and Scott Rossman in favor and Daymond Hoffman, Steve Vick and Joanne Waterman opposed.
According to the meeting agenda, an executive session was warranted because "discussion in open session could jeopardize the deal and would clearly have an adverse effect upon the finances of the borough."
The assembly has held several executive sessions in recent months to discuss Picture Point. Beasley is a Texas-based car dealer who also owns Lynn View Lodge.
Lapp requested an open session.
"I believe that this should be open to taxpayers to look at," he said. "Until we make a commitment to buy, I cannot see an adverse effect upon finances."
Borough manager Mark Earnest said he would not be able to discuss finances openly, due to a non-disclosure agreement with Beasley.
"I will tell you, though, that this is an update on negotiations and that any decisions or any direction coming out of this discussion, once we move forward with this process, we’ll be able to discuss it publicly," Earnest said.
Vick said he would have "no problem" with an open session if the non-disclosure agreement were not in place.
"The reason you go into executive session is if you’re going to jeopardize the finances of the borough," Rossman said. "Somebody else’s finances, it’s not our issue. As far as I’m concerned … there’s no reason it should have been secret, ever."
Five residents spoke against Picture Point acquisition at the meeting.
"I do not see a person taking a picture as good revenue," Duck Hess said. "I do see the revenue of taxation, a positive for Haines. There is ample room on the state right-of-way to stop and take a picture of Fort Seward/Chilkoot Barracks. I have a beautiful view from my property at 2 Mile; would you care to purchase it?"
Planning commissioner Rob Goldberg said he supports borough acquisition of Picture Point, because "that particular piece of property is Haines’ picture to the world."
"There’s concern that we’ll be using borough funds to purchase this," Goldberg said. "I heard it called a luxury that we can’t afford, and I believe that there might even be federal scenic highway funds that could be available to purchase this, so we wouldn’t even have to use our own money."
Real estate agent Jim Studley said his business would not make any commission on the sale of Picture Point to the borough, but said unobstructed water view lots would fuel market demand and grow the property tax base.
"I believe we have a vocal minority that do not truly grasp the financial benefits we gain as residents from these subdivisions currently being developed," Studley wrote in a letter to the assembly. "Do you honestly believe people like looking at garage doors as they drive into Haines? First impression is the key to selling real estate for any property, so what first impression would you like to give the viewing public?"