November 14, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 45

Developer dumps subdivision plans

A Juneau developer has scrapped plans for a 20-lot subdivision above Lutak Road, citing a sluggish Haines housing market and high development costs as reasons for abandoning the project.

Jan Van Dort is trying to sell 18.7 acres of land between Lutak Road and Oslund Drive, which he envisioned would have turned into Lynnvista Estates.

“I concluded that there really is not a market in Haines for one-acre lots. The cost of producing the lots is just too much, and there is no market for lots at the price you would need to sell it at,” Van Dort said.

The property is split into a 11.02-acre parcel and a 7.69-acre parcel.

The January 2012 hillside slump which cracked Lutak Road and undermined one home had nothing to do with his decision to sell the property, he said.

Van Dort said he originally bought about 24 acres of land four years ago, and subdivided it into four lots – three parcels totaling roughly four acres, and one large parcel. He planned to sell off the three small lots to finance development of the large one, which would need to have utilities and roads installed.

Van Dort had a harder time selling the three small parcels than he initially thought: southern exposure to sunlight, views of the Lynn Canal and good soil made Van Dort confident the properties would be snapped up.

“In Juneau they would go in a heartbeat. You would sell all of the lots in a week,” Van Dort said.

Haines Borough Planning Commission chair Rob Goldberg said Van Dort just picked the wrong time to get into Haines real estate. “His timing was at the time the housing slump was happening and people weren’t buying property... I think he thought he was going to sell the land easily and it hasn’t been easy,” Goldberg said.

Jim Studley, a broker with Haines Real Estate, said the low demand for single-family residential housing is tied in with the overall Haines economy, which has been lagging. “In other communities, they have a high-demand market. They have employment. There’s no demand for a single-family residential home to be constructed here,” Studley said.

Pam Long, an associate broker with Haines Real Estate, said she has about a half-dozen lots for sale in the same general vicinity as Van Dort’s property: in the Highland Estates, Skyline Drive and Nukdik Point areas.

Developing land through the installation of water, sewer, power and roads is also a risky endeavor in such a shaky housing market, Studley said.

“A lot of demand is put on the subdivider and the developer for these expenses, and it becomes very costly very quickly because it has to be paid all up-front,” he said.

Van Dort said ideally he would like to sell only one of the two parcels and keep the other for development of a personal vacation home.