The Haines Borough Assembly voted 4-2 Tuesday to authorize manager Mark Earnest to negotiate with an upper valley church that wants to buy a two-acre parcel of borough land at the intersection of Haines Highway and Mosquito Lake Road.
Members Joanne Waterman and Greg Goodman were opposed.
The church’s lot would come from a five-acre piece the borough purchased there last year. The borough planning commission recommended against the sale, which was advocated by assembly member and upper highway resident Jerry Lapp.
Lapp told the assembly 71 highway residents signed a petition supporting the sale, compared to a total of 93 voters in the area during the fall election. Lapp said New Hope Fellowship intends to build a church on the property that will become a community center.
The church also would maintain an existing playground and ballfield there at no charge to the borough, Lapp said. "This is a super-majority of people up there who want to see this happen. It would be good for the borough and enhance that area out there."
Commissioner Rob Goldberg told the assembly the planning body considered a sale premature, in part because the borough itself hasn’t checked out the land. "The borough doesn’t own a lot of property out there and it may need it for something else."
There’s also a question about price because the borough acquired the property at the below-market price of $10,000 per acre, Goldberg said.
Manager Mark Earnest said while most borough land sales are by competitive bid, the municipality can choose to negotiate a sale if a public purpose is to be served. "You have to establish that it has reached that threshold."
Earnest said the borough could choose to put conditions on the sale, such as prohibiting resale. Assemblyman Steve Vick said he wanted more information on how the church would function as a community center.
Waterman said the church had been looking at other parcels and there appeared to be a division between church members and leadership over the necessity of the borough land. "I’d have a hard time not supporting the planning commission and their due diligence on this."
No church officials spoke at the meeting.