Homer City Manager Rob Dumouchel speaks on Monday, March 22, 2021, at a Zoom meeting of the Homer City Council in Homer, Alaska. (Screen capture by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Homer City Manager Rob Dumouchel speaks on Monday, March 22, 2021, at a Zoom meeting of the Homer City Council in Homer, Alaska. (Screen capture by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Council postpones indefinitely tax exempt resolution for moose habitat organization

City discovers a resolution not needed to declare the organization is tax exempt

The Homer City Council at its regular Monday meeting acted on a motion that had the parliamentary effect of sinking in a deep ocean a broken-down boat. The resolution in question, 21-020, turned out to be unnecessary.

In a unanimous vote, the council voted to postpone indefinitely a resolution which if passed would have declared that recently purchased property by Kachemak Moose Habitat Inc. is exempt from city property taxes. In a memorandum to the council, City Clerk Melissa Jacobsen wrote that after talking to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assessor’s office, she learned there was no reason for the resolution because city code matches borough code in granting tax exemptions to nonprofit groups like Kachemak Moose Habitat Inc. that serve a community purpose.

Council member Donna Aderhold made the motion to postpone the resolution indefinitely, with council member Rachel Lord seconding the motion.

“By postponing indefinitely we’re taking this hands off,” Aderhold said. “If we vote this down it gives the impression that we don’t support the action. By postponing indefinitely, it sends it off into the ether.”

In Jacobsen’s memo, she recommended using a section of Robert’s Rules of Order — the parliamentary manual the council uses — regarding the tool of postponing indefinitely: “It is useful in disposing of a badly chosen main motion that cannot be either adopted or expressly rejected without possibly undesirable consequences.”

The move to provide tax relief for Kachemak Moose Habitat Inc. came about after the organization acquired 21 acres of wetlands on Kachemak Drive, including a portion of Lampert Lake. The council has already paid off a water and sewer assessment on the land. Kachemak Moose Habitat Inc. then asked the council to declare it was exempt from paying property taxes on that land. The city has exempted this particular nonprofit from property taxes in the past, council documents showed. The council considered a resolution doing so at its March 8 meeting but postponed action until Monday.

As it turned out, the council didn’t need to pass such a resolution.

“We did a little more research and found out we actually didn’t need it,” Jacobsen said Tuesday.

Previous to 2008, the council did need to pass a resolution saying a nonprofit served a community purpose to exempt that organization from paying city property taxes. In 2008, the council passed an ordinance saying nonprofit organizations using property exclusively for community purposes were exempt from property taxes. It also said the borough tax assessor would determine if a property qualified to be tax exempt. The 2008 ordinance came about when the Kachemak Bay Equestrian Association sought tax-exempt status from the city.

In 2010, however, Kachemak Moose Habitat Inc. sought a resolution from the council seeking exemption from property taxes. Not recognizing that the 2008 ordinance established nonprofits automatically received a tax exemption for city taxes if the borough assessor determined it qualified, the council then also passed a resolution saying the organization should be considered tax exempt.

In her memo, Jacobsen wrote the borough assessor’s office told her that in 2010 when Kachemak Moose Habitat Inc. first applied for a city tax exemption, “whoever advised them must have been working from old information.”

“This is not something we should be doing,” council member Lord said on why she seconded Aderhold’s motion. “… This is not our place. This is not our deal.”

In other city council action:

• City Manager Rob Dumouchel reported that following passage of an ordinance authorizing paying off the Natural Gas loan with the borough, the city paid off the final balance of $2.5 million;

• On the council consent agenda, it approved reappointing Emilie Springer to the Library Advisory Board and Nicole Arevalo to the Economic Development Advisory Commission; approved recommending liquor license renewals for Best Western Bidarka Inn/Otter Room, Beluga Lake Lodge, Alice’s Champagne Palace, Don Jose’s Mexican Restaurant, and a liquor license premise change for Odin Mead;

• Also on the consent agenda, the council introduced on first reading ordinances spending money for city utilities improvements for the state East Hill Road repaving project, spending money for groundwater research in the Bridge Creek Reservoir watershed, authorizing pass-through funds for the state Lake Street project, and authorizing expenditures for the Raw Water Transmission Line project;

• The council approved resolutions on the consent agenda authorizing disposal of used and surplus equipment from the derelict vessel North Pacific, updated regulations regarding public records, authorized distributing a $500,000 federal grant for forgiveness of water main extensions, and provisionally awarded a contract for library internet services to GCI.

The council’s next meeting is at 6 p.m. Monday, April 12. Dumouchel said in his manager’s report that remodeling of the Cowles Council Chamber is proceeding and that he hopes the council will be able to hold virtual and in-person hybrid meetings soon.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

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