The Petersburg Borough is auctioning off this parcel at 705 Ira II Street. It appraised for $36,000 this year. (Photo by Corinne Smith/KFSK)

The Petersburg Borough Assembly voted to put a parcel of borough land up for auction at their meeting Monday night. The local tribe and a neighbor have both expressed interest in the land. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

The parcel of land is located in a neighborhood at 705 Ira II Street. It was appraised this year for $36,000, four thousand dollars less than the previous appraisal. The borough had offered the property for sale through public auction in 2017 but had no bidders.

The borough assembly considered two options at the meeting: to sell the parcel directly to a regional housing authority who would later give it to the local tribe or to put it up for auction. Direct sales are allowed if it’s considered to be in the best interest of the public.

Petersburg Indian Association had approached the borough wanting the land to build a low-income duplex through the Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority. The tribe had received Covid-19 federal grant funding to address overcrowding in Petersburg homes. The plan was for P.I.A. to own the unit after the regional housing authority built it.  

President of of the regional housing authority, Jackie Pata, addressed the assembly about the land.

“We checked all of the available properties and this was the first choice of properties by the tribe,” she said.

Pata said that the federal grant has a timeline they have to follow with a deadline of June 30 of next year. She said they’ve finished the environmental review and it has been approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They’ve also started designing the units.

“These Covid Imminent Threat grants, of course, like other Covid funds, have to be expended within one year and so we are on a tight time frame,” Pata said.

A letter from PIA Director, Tracy Welch, she said that the parcel is the best location for them  to purchase because it is within walking distance to essential services. She said no residents had wanted to buy the property earlier.

Neighboring property owners now say they do want to buy the borough land. That’s Kathy Holtzinger, Niccole Olsen and Bob Olsen. Niccole Olsen spoke to assembly during the meeting and said her family had been interested in the property but not at the previous price.

“In the past two years we have inquired twice about the purchase price and whether or not the price was negotiable and both times we were told the price was firm at $40,000,” Olsen said.

Olsen said the family also wants to build there.

“We too have always had a plan of building a duplex on that lot and now that we finished up our own construction projects next door we’re ready to move forward with this next project,” she said.

Assembly members briefly discussed the issue before unanimously supporting a public auction.

Brandi Marohl said she wanted to give the Olsen’s a chance to buy the property.

“I do believe—and the time frame I’m not positive on—that Niccole and Bob Olsen took ownership after the auction so I think that it would only be fair for them to have a shot at it,” said Marohl.

Jeff Meucci said he supported a competitive bid process.

The only assembly member to speak in support of selling it to the tribe was Taylor Norheim saying he understood that PIA was on a time schedule to get their low-income housing project done. But Norheim ended up voting for a public auction like all of the assembly.

The sale will be advertised in the next few weekly newspapers and letters will be sent out to adjacent property owners. The assembly expects to have a sale to consider during their September 8th meeting.

The borough typically does not tax low income housing projects.