photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Robert Gibson testifies before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Feb. 2 in Soldotna.

photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion Robert Gibson testifies before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Feb. 2 in Soldotna.

Assembly approves new agriculture lease structure

Both pieces of legislation were approved unanimously

The Kenai Peninsula Borough will use a standard fee schedule to calculate prices for borough land leased to members of the public for agricultural purposes following a vote in support by the assembly during their Feb. 2 meeting.

The assembly approved two pieces of legislation, which are part of a larger initiative by the borough to bolster agriculture on the peninsula. The first was an ordinance changing how land was valued from an assessor to a standard fee schedule. The second was a resolution outlining the fee schedule. Both take effect immediately. The rates will only apply to new leases entered by the borough.

Under the new fee schedule, leases will be categorized as either agricultural or grazing, with eight subcategories into which the land would be classified by type as follows:

For agricultural leases:

Category A (Tillable land): $15 per acre per year

Category B (Highly Erodible Fields): $10 per acre per year

Category C (Hayland to Rangeland): $5 per acre per year

Category D (Managed Forestland): $2.50 per acre per year

Category E (Non-Farmed Sensitive Land): $1 per acre per year

Category F (Access Reserves – Ungated): No fees

Category G (On-site Materials limited to 1,000 cubic yards): $3 per cubic yard

Category H (Barnyard Site): $25 each + $10 per acre per year

For grazing leases:

Category C (Hayland to Rangeland): $5 per acre per year

Category E (Non-Farmed Sensitive Land): $1 per acre per year

Category F (Access Reserves – Ungated): No fees

Category G (On-site Materials limited to 1,000 cubic yards): $3 per cubic yard

Category H (Barnyard Site): $25 each + $10 per acre per year

Assembly Vice President Brent Johnson successfully proposed lowering the cost of barnyard sites from $250 each plus $100 per acre per year to $25 each plus $10 per acre per year “as an avenue to make this economically feasible for people who do this sort of thing.”

The assembly heard testimony from three people regarding the resolution setting the rates during their Tuesday meeting.

Robert Gibson, who has testified before the assembly about the legislation previously, believes that the borough should institute a flat rate of $1.60 per acre for all types of land instead of having eight variable rates, which may become convoluted if his cows, for example, stray from an acre allowing for animals to an acre that does not.

“For the ease of it, I’d like to have one fee that covers the whole parcel,” Gibson said. “That would make things easy.”

Assembly member Jesse Bjorkman, who represents Nikiski, proposed allowing people interested in borough land to buy the land instead of lease it, which he said would eliminate conflict about land use and ongoing borough contracts.

“I’m all for economic development in our borough and I’m all for farming and I think that if we have interest in farmland that’s out there, I would much rather see the borough sell land to people who are interested in farming that land at a fair market value,” Bjorkman said. “I think that would save a lot of administration and then give farmers the freedom to do what they want with their own land. I think that’s how we should approach this and not be in the landlord business.”

Assembly member Willy Dunne, who represents the South Peninsula, said that deciding whether or not to sell borough land would require a longer conversation and that the assembly needed to respond to the ordinance they had already passed.

“The fact is, we just passed an ordinance a little while ago that changes our rules for leasing and says that we will lease them at the rates established,” Dunne said. “So we do need to establish rates tonight.”

Both the ordinance and the resolution were approved unanimously by the assembly.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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