Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska News


Residents Express Concerns Over UofA Land Sale Plans
by Dick Kauffman


January 14, 2003
Tuesday - 9:45 pm

Ketchikan - 'Locals for Responsible Land Use' represented by their president Parker Smith informed the Ketchikan Borough Planning Commission/Platting Board on Tuesday evening of the group's intention to pursue litigation if the South Tongass parcel of state land that is to be sold to a private timber company by the University of Alaska is not stopped. Smith said they believe that the University and its land management office failed to sell the land at fair market value; failed to accurately assess the value of the land; failed to manage its trust lands in a financially responsible manner; and failed to properly notify the community of the land sale.

On Tuesday, 'Locals for Responsible Land Use' represented by Ketchikan attorney Loren Stanton presented a 'Notice of Intent' to the University of Alaska requesting that the sale not be completed nor any sale documents recorded.

The property located south of Ketchikan was a part of a larger sale that featured 35 other parcels around the state. The 145.27 acre property that stretches from Mountain Point to Herring Cove went on the market September 8, 2002, with a minimum asking price of


South Tongass - Wood Road Area
The 145.27 acre property stretches from Mountain Point to Herring Cove...
photo by Gigi Pilcher


At the end of the sale on November 6, 2002, the state had received one offer for $175,000.00 on the South Tongass property from Alcan Forest Products of Ketchikan.

Parker Smith was just one of several South Tongass residents to speak before the Ketchikan Borough Planning Commission Tuesday evening. He said this is not a battle between environmentalists and timber but a battle between our small neighborhood and the University of Alaska. "We did not want this fight but we intend to hold our state's institute of higher learning to the high standards it espouses in its own charter. Unfortunately, the university has deeper pockets than us and have hired outside legal council to defend their deeply flawed land use decisions," Smith said.

Smith said if the University completes the land sale with Alcan Forest Products the Ketchikan Planning Commission "will be our last hope to mitigate the devastating effects a logging operation would have upon our property values and the quality of life in this beautiful neighborhood."

Referring to excerpts from a letter from the owners of Alcan Forest Products to the Borough Planning Office, Smith said "it is obvious from Alcan's own letters that they have no intention of honoring the minimum 100-foot uncleared green belt or of being a good neighbor to the 65 families whose property borders the no-cut strip."

Smith suggested that the Ketchikan Planning Commission consider that the zoning law for logging activities on this parcel calls for a strip of uncleared land at least 100 feet wide. Smith said "it is obvious that this strip is intended to be a no-cut green belt so we would like to see any variance by Alcan to cut down trees in the greenbelt denied."

He said, "We would also like to explore the possibility of extending the uncleared strip past 100 feet in order to further protect our homes from the effects of logging these steep and unstable hill slopes."

Smith said that they would ask that the borough or neutral third party be involved in the flagging of the uncleared greenbelt to ensure that it is laid out correctly.

"Any reasonable person will understand that the word uncleared means undisturbed we would expect that Alcan fell timber away from the uncleared strip to prevent knockdown damage to the trees with the uncleared greenbelt," Smith said.

Continuing with his suggestions to the Planning Commission, Smith said, "There are multiple eagles' nesting trees in the harvest area and the uncleared strip. Some of the trees have been tagged by fish and game and some have not.The trees are well known to nearby landowners and photos have been taken. Any disturbance to these nesting trees will be documented and the proper authorities notified."

Parker Smith said, "We hope that the borough will remain vigilant during the harvest operations and by inspection ensure that the uncleared greenbelt remains intact and that any encroachments to the green belt be dealt with to the furthest extent of the law."

Smith concluded his comments to the Commission by saying that he and his neighbors will remain vigilant because they believe that this land sale is wrong. He said if they cannot stop the University from going through with this deal they will be relying on the borough assembly and all other parties involved in this timber harvest to do the right thing.

Margaret Clabby also spoke to the Commission pointing out her concerns with the inaccuracies in the maps. Greg Poppen stressed his concern with the sale saying it came through the back door as residents weren't notified - which was a common theme among most who spoke to the Ketchikan Planning Commission Tuesday.

Robert Cowan told the Commission that he was aware of plans to sell the property back in November of 2002 and knew of one other South Tongass resident who was also aware of the sale.

Dan Hoyt who owns Westfall Nursery, said that he has water rights with his property and that his water comes down from the area that will be logged, He expressed concerns about how the logging would affect his water rights and said his rights grant 1800 gallons per day per lot and he has 3 lots. Hoyt said this hillside is a water shed.

Tom Moore of Herring Cove said his property is adjacent to the area to be logged by Alcan Forest Products. He said he will grant no variance on his property regarding the 100' no-cut zone. He said once the hillside is disturbed by clear cutting to put in roads, the hill is going to come down. He told the Commission he didn't like how the deal was done and was concerned with cutting timber and exporting it to another country when no one here is working.

Jill Jacob also voiced her displeasure to the Ketchikan Planning Commission/Platting Board. She said Joseph Beedle, who is the Vice President of Fiance with the University of Alaska, had assured her the land was non-developable and that the University of Alaska's Board of Regents weren't involved with the decision as the sale was under $200,000. Jacob said Beedle told her he had sent out hundreds of notices regarding the sale. Jacob said she never heard about it.

According to information provided by University staff, public notification of the sale was provided with publications in newspapers in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau.

Tim Manier was also not pleased with the way the deal was handled by the University and said his property borders the land that is to be logged. He echoed other comments that the property to be logged is steep. He expressed concern that trees will be cut behind his house noting that some of his neighbor's trees have eagles' nests in them. Manier was also very concerned with safety issues with the heavy equipment and children and pets playing in the neighborhood.

Charlie Arteaga, Chairman of the Planning Commission/Platting Board, said the Commission would be taking no action on the concerns voiced Tuesday evening because the issue was not on the agenda. He said he was sure it would be in the future and assured everyone that the staff had heard their concerns voiced about the water shed, the mapping and the 100' no-cut zone.

Mark Hamilton, President of the University of Alaska was contacted Tuesday by Sitnews; however, he declined to comment referring questions regarding the sale or the University's response to the "Notice of Intent" letter to Joseph Beedle. Beedle was not available for comment and reportedly out of his office until Wednesday.

Eric Nichols, one of the owners of Alcan Forest Products located in Ketchikan, spoke with Sitnews Tuesday evening and said they have a signed sale of agreement from the University of Alaska, 100% paid for. Nichols said they are waiting for the University of Alaska to sign the deed for closing. He said they haven't spoken with anyone from the University of Alaska since Saturday.

Nichols said Alcan Forest Products bid on the 145 acre property offering a fair price above the minimum asking price. He said the University of Alaska sent out at least 6,000 letters advertising the sale and the notice was also on the University of Alaska's web site.

Nichols said they feel that they have been tried and convicted when they just followed the correct procedures in purchasing the South Tongass property from the University.

Plans are to log approximately 3 million board feet of timber from the property in the spring.



'Notice of Intent' - 'Locals for Responsible Land Use'

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