919 Sandy Beach lot with artifactsThe Petersburg Borough assembly is moving forward with plans to sell a controversial piece of property at 919 Sandy Beach as a way to bring in more revenue to the borough. As KFSK’s Angela Denning reports the assembly supported three separate issues surrounding the property: selling it, changing its easement, and changing the zoning.

The borough is looking at new ways to bring in revenue with increasing state budget cuts to local municipalities. If sold as is, the borough says 919 Sandy Beach could bring in at least $2,000 in annual property tax.

“How do we maximize property tax revenue going forward,” said Petersburg Borough Manger Steve Giesbrecht, while addressing the assembly. “How do you maximize the revenue for the borough? And that’s taking publicly owned property that has maybe a better higher value, higher use by moving it into the privacy sector so we can collect property tax offset some of the tax liability for the rest of the residents in town.”

The Sandy Beach property is over an acre in size and the borough says it could be subdivided. They’re asking a minimum bid of $182,000. The assembly voted in June to put this lot and a few others up for sale to help pay for the renovations of the downtown municipal building.

The sale is controversial because dozens of residents oppose it for various reasons.

Fifty people signed a letter asking the borough not to sell the lot. Petitioners say it’s one of the last remaining undeveloped community-owned beach front properties along Sandy Beach Road and has more value as a public asset than as a private one. They say the land is also of public value because it is near Native artifacts-petroglyphs and fish traps.

Nevette Bowen spoke to assembly on behalf of the letter signers.

“We believe this land should remain in public ownership as green space and part of our community’s natural and cultural heritage for future generations,” Bowen said. “And we don’t believe it should be sold.”

The neighbors do not want it to sell. Tim Koeneman and Kris Norosz live on opposite sides of the property; Koeneman since 1975 and Norosz since 1979. They both were upset that they were not informed of the borough’s intention to sell the property.

The neighbors say they wanted the lot rezoned to green space. But since that wasn’t happening they both applied to buy different parts of the property from the borough in order to keep a green space buffer between them and a new owner.

“If the borough is determined to sell it we’d consider purchasing a portion of lot 10 to protect the privacy we have had through the years,” Koeneman said.

Assembly member, Cindi Lagoudakis, spoke against selling the lot because she felt that the purpose of the property was to be green space.

“I understand that we are going to be under some significant budget challenges in the future however when I go through the list of the properties that the borough owns it goes on for pages and pages and pages and pages,” Lagoudakis said. “So, there are potential other properties that we could sell to raise revenue.”

Lagoudakis made a motion to remove the Sandy Beach lot from the list of borough properties to be sold but the amendment failed.

The assembly voted to sell the Sandy Beach lot through a public auction along with two other parcels, one at 306 Sandy Beach and 705 Ira II Street. The vote was 5 to 2 with Lagoudakis and Kurt Wohlhueter voting NO.

The assembly also voted to rezone the property from public use to single-family residential. The purpose of rezoning is to make it clearer to potential buyers what the lot is.

That was a split vote of 4 to 3 with Lagoudakis, Wohlhueter, and Eric Castro voting NO.

The third issue was a public access easement on the property. Borough staff wanted the borough to vacate a 50 foot public access easement and replace it with a 20 foot private one. It would make the land more valuable for potential buyers and it would prevent public access through the lot.

Norosz was concerned she’d lose a vehicle turn around that’s on the easement.

“If lot 10 is rezoned and the easement is vacated and lot 10 is sold, I will be severely impacted,” Norosz said. “The desirability of my property will be decreased. The value will decrease. And I will be put in a hazardous situation every time I exit my property and continue onto Sandy Beach Road.”

Community Planning Director, Liz Cabrera, told assembly they could include the turn out through an amendment but no motion was made for that.

The assembly voted to change the easement with a vote of 4 to 3 with Lagoudakis, Wohlhueter, and Bob Lynn voting NO.

The sale approval and easement change were assembly resolutions and only need one vote. The rezoning is an ordinance so that issue will come back to assembly again for a second and third reading.

The borough plans to hold a public auction January 17 to sell the Sandy Beach property and the two others.