Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday voted to transfer and change one lease of borough property near the waterfront but decided to wait on the transfer of another.
Alaska Commerical Electronics owner Gerry Whitethorn is looking to sell his building on South Nordic Drive and asked for his lease to be transferred to prospective buyers Joel and Kim Randrup. Whitethorn has 33 years remaining on a 55 year lease with the borough and he encouraged the assembly to OK the transfer.
“In today’s economic environment we should welcome all business investment opportunities with open arms,” Whitethorn said. “We’re always looking for new taxes, we’re looking for new revenue.” Whitethorn said he wanted to continue his business in Petersburg but focus on internet sales and didn’t need his shop anymore. His company does marine electronics work on fishing boats and makes signs among other services. His lease with the borough specifies the business at that location can only be marine and commercial electronics sales and service.
The Randrups plan to use the building to continue making marine and commercial signs but also offer embroidery, quilting and a hair salon. Petersburg’s harbor board fell one vote short of a recommendation against the transfer because of concerns the use was not marine-industry related on industrially-zoned land near the waterfront.
Joel Randrup thought language in the borough code on zoning was too vague. “I think this is a growth opportunity the community really basically,” Randrup told the assembly. “Really there is some unintended vague definitions in waterfront A, B and C (zoning) and without a definition you’re turning away business by saying they’re not marine related.”
Another local resident, Glenn Warmack, has applied to lease land nearby to do fiberglass work on boats. Assembly member Kurt Wohlhueter questioned Randrup about whether his business could function if marine services like fiberglass work were happening nearby.
“I wasn’t aware either until the harbor board hit us with well what if fiberglass dust is drifting out there and gets on your quilts?” Randrup responded. “I thought well yeah that’s a big deal, could be.”
The property is next to school bus parking, an auto and coffee shop, gas station and several boat service businesses. Assembly members were, for the most part, in agreement on the issue, in fact what they were calling “violent agreement.”
“I think it’s really important for us to support our retail communities and our business communities and I don’t think this is fundamentally going to change how our waterfront is going to be able to function so I will be voting for it,” said Cindi Lagoudakis.
The vote was unanimous to change the lease language to allow non-marine related business and also 7-0 to transfer the lease to the Randrups.
The vote was also unanimous to wait on approval of another lease transfer. That’s for tidelands behind the Alaska Department of Fish and Game building on Sing Lee Alley
Local businessman Charles Davis applied for the lease transfer and is interested in buying that building. His application says the tidelands would be used for a dock for Fish and Game along with the state troopers. The lease is currently held by Don Thornlow and a Mount Vernon, Washington real estate company called Washington-Alaska Properties.
Mayor Mark Jensen described the current condition of the dock. “I looked at it today and the dock is there, the trestle or the pier that goes out, the whole surface is off that and the railings and the ramp is gone,” Jensen said. And in the lease Steve doesn’t it say it will be kept in a maintained manner?
“Yes there are several sections that talk about maintenance and that it must be kept in a usable state, must be maintained well and that’s actually in the lease document,” resonded borough manager Steve Giesbrecht. “So in a sense you could argue at this point that the current lease holder is out of compliance with the lease.” He explained he has not heard from the current or future owner about the plans for the dock behind that building.
Harbormaster Glorianne Wollen said Davis was working to get a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to dredge the tidelands and had done the work to remove the ramp in the last six weeks. Jensen suggested waiting on the lease transfer until the borough heard from the current lease owner about plans for maintaining or repairing that dock. Assembly members agreed and voted unanimously to table that issue.