Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 124

03/24/2006 01:00 PM RESOURCES

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Moved Out of Committee
Moved Out of Committee
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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                                                               
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.                                                                        

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