Survey notes untaxed cabins on Palin property

Officials learned about structures last month

Posted: Wednesday, March 24, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Two cabins on backcountry land partially owned by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin have been appraised for property tax purposes for the first time since their construction began several years ago.

No taxes have been paid on the structures because local officials only learned about them last month.

Officials with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in February conducted an aerial survey of properties in the remote area nearly 100 miles north of Anchorage. The area is accessible only by floatplane, snowmobile or four-wheeler.

The cabins, a garage-workshop and a sauna have increased the assessed value of the 10-acre site to $111,700. The 2009 appraisal was $12,000.

"I don't think they're anything spectacular," borough assessor Dave Dunivan said of the cabins Tuesday. "They're just a remote getaway."

Last year's property tax bill for the site totaled $125. The 2010 taxes on borough properties will be billed in July and have not been calculated. Under the 2009 mill rate, the tax for the site would add up to $1,163.

The property is near Safari Lake, an undeveloped area near Denali State Park, and owned by the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, her husband Todd Palin, and a family friend, Scott Richter. The three also own a nearby 15-acre vacant lot valued at $18,000.

That part of the borough had not been surveyed in five years, before construction started on the cabins. Palin's attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said work is still being done on the cabins, but both are usable. The borough considers construction complete in its assessment.

Van Flein has said it is the borough's responsibility, not a property owner's, to keep track of such structures.

According to the borough, property owners are required by state law to report any errors or omissions in their tax assessments, but hardly anyone ever reports an omission. The borough often learns of new structures when neighbors report them.

The property taxes on the lots have never been delinquent, according to Van Flein. He said he did not know how the upcoming bill would be divided between Richter and the Palins, but it would be honored.

"They'll pay whatever the taxes are," Van Flein said.

There is no phone listing for Richter in Alaska and he could not be reached Tuesday.

Property owners have until March 30 to appeal the new appraisals. The Palins have not done so, Dunivan said.

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