City paves way for Lena subdivision

Some question approval of high-end lots when low-income housing is needed

Posted: Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Soon 44 high-priced lots within Juneau's Lena Point subdivision will go to the highest bidder, a result of a Juneau Assembly decision Monday night amid concern over affordable housing.

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The ordinance authorized the sale of 44 lots at the city's South Lena subdivision, while establishing the method of sale to be by sealed competitive bid. The Assembly agreed that selling off the land to provide high-end homes would not alleviate the need for low-income housing, but would provide much-needed cash to connect potential areas to the city's sewer system.

"I am very concerned that this project does not meet any of the affordable housing priorities that you have discussed," Dixie Hood said. "It seems like creating affordable housing should be a condition of this project."

Assembly member Merrill Sanford agreed that affordable housing should be a priority, but "as people potentially move into these new homes, it would enable low-income families to move into the previous owner's house, creating an opportunity for those families in a sort of "domino effect."

"We need this money to pay for affordable housing projects," Sanford said. "This is not a low-income housing area we are talking about. These are high-end lots, where I envision houses to be between $200,000 and $400,000."

He estimated each of the 44 lot values at $80,000 to $150,000. That would mean Sanford estimated the total amount of the lots at $3.52 million to $6.6 million.

"You multiply that by 44 and you have quite an amount," Sanford said.

The Assembly approved the land sale 8-1. Assembly member Jonathan Anderson was the lone dissenting vote.

"I campaigned on affordable housing and there is no way I can support this project," Anderson said. "There is a lack of sewer and what we need to do is focus on developing land with a sewer connection."

The Assembly Lands Committee reviewed and recommended approval of the concept of the competitive bid sale for South Lena subdivision at its meeting January 23. Deputy Land Manager Cynthia Johnson said the subdivision plan was approved by the Juneau Planning Commission on Sept. 13.

"Many people want to build homes and this is the Assembly illustrating their intent to acknowledge the appropriate use of city lands," Johnson said.

Johnson said the property has not been appraised and with property values changing so much there is really no way to know the current value. She said the minimum bid value will be identified closer to sale time.

Johnson said a sealed competitive bid sale is advantageous because the bidding process ensures the city receive fair-market value for its property. It allows the market, through the bidders' actions, to note and account for distinctions between one parcel and the next.

The land sale is subject to Planning Commission approval, in addition to Assembly approval to fund and construct remaining utilities and completion of the negotiations with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority for acquisition of a portion of its property that lies within the subdivision.

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