Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 124
03/24/2006 01:00 PM RESOURCES
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 55-AGRICULTURAL LAND CO-CHAIR SAMUELS announced that the final order of business would be CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 55(FIN), "An Act instructing the commissioner of natural resources to issue a patent for the remaining interest in certain state land to the owner of the agricultural rights to that land." 1:23:29 PM AMY SEITZ, Staff to Senator Tom Wagoner, Alaska State Legislature, speaking on behalf of the sponsor, pointed out that CSSB 55(FIN) is similar to SSHB 57 in that it gives the commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) the authority to transfer rights to certain parcels. The three requirements the property has to meet are as follows: it has to be no more than 15 acres; the state had to have originally acquired the land through the Alaska Statehood Act for purposes of community expansion; and the owner of the agricultural rights has to pay the fair market value. A 15-acre parcel in Hope, to which the Ross Miller family has the agricultural rights, meets these requirements. Ms. Seitz related that the Ross Miller family homesteaded in Hope before statehood and had 27 acres of their own as well as 15 acres that were leased from the state for pasture land. During the 1964 earthquake, several of the family's own acreage fell into the Turnagain Arm and the family was compensated with one acre through the Earthquake Exchange Program. The state did not think that was fair, and therefore turned over the agricultural rights of the 15 acres to the Ross Miller family. Since that time, the family has attempted to purchase the remaining rights, which the state wants to sell to the family. However, the state cannot do so without a statutory change, which is what SB 55 accomplishes. 1:25:33 PM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked if there are any R.S. 2477 easements through the property. MS. SEITZ said that she did not know. 1:26:00 PM DICK MYLIUS, Director, Division of Mining, Land and Water, Department of Natural Resources, noted his agreement that SB 55 is similar to SSHB 57 in that it's a parcel that the state would like to sell, but cannot under existing law. Mr. Mylius noted that SB 55 was narrowly crafted to apply to the situation in Hope, although it may also apply to a few parcels in Gustavus. However, the legislation would not apply to other agricultural parcels. In response to Representative Seaton's earlier question, Mr. Mylius confirmed that there are no R.S. 2477 [easements] through this parcel, although the parcel does front a road with an existing right-of-way. 1:27:28 PM CO-CHAIR SAMUELS asked if the language on page 1, line 9, regarding issuing a patent is legal ease that means "to sell it." MR. MYLIUS said that it's the department's intention to sell the parcel at fair market value. 1:28:00 PM FRANK MILLER informed the committee that he is the son of Ross Miller, the original homesteader, and he and his sister, Linda Graham, co-own the agricultural rights to the aforementioned acreage. He further informed the committee that he and his sister have been working for a number of years to try to resolve the situation to make the land fee simple. This bill would solve the problem and bring closure to this difficult situation, he said. 1:28:56 PM CHUCK GRAHAM, speaking on behalf of his wife Linda Graham, related that the two strongly support the bill, as it seems to be the only means to resolve this problem. ERICA MILLER, Ross Miller's granddaughter, related her strong support for SB 55. She said she didn't want to wait another year for full rights to the property. 1:31:06 PM DOUGLAS VOLLMAN informed the committee that he is involved with the agricultural community in Copper Center. Although Mr. Vollman said that he didn't oppose SB 55, he cautioned that the bill could open up the door for transferring other agricultural rights. He then inquired as to how the department will determine the fair market value. He emphasized that he supports the Miller family and its attempt to obtain the patent to the land. However, he reiterated concern with regard to the legal aspects of doing this legislation and others with agricultural rights wanting their conveyance or the elimination of the agricultural restrictions. 1:32:47 PM CO-CHAIR RAMRAS relayed that Mr. Mylius, in relation to SSHB 57, testified that in order to determine the fair market value of a property, an appraiser would be hired to determine the fair market value. Furthermore, the bill was written by the Department of Law, and is presumed legal until such time as there is a court challenge. CO-CHAIR RAMRAS closed public testimony. 1:33:21 PM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON noted that the legal opinion from Legislative Legal Services states that the bill is constructed as a law of general application. Any other person who falls under similar circumstances would be entitled to the same provisions, and therefore this is not special legislation. 1:33:53 PM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON moved to report CSSB 55(FIN) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. Hearing no objections, it was so ordered.