KABATA Threatens Homes
Eminent domain threats against Government Hill residents
They say a man's home is his castle, but apparently not so if you live in Government Hill, where residents say the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority (KABATA) and its proposed bridge is threatening their future.
It’s a bridge and highway that would connect Anchorage to the Mat-Su Valley. On one side, some say it would promote economic growth and more access, while those who live in Government Hill say homes and businesses being taken over is just the beginning of events that would destroy their neighborhood.
The KABATA plan for Government Hill is not a pretty sight for Stephanie Kesler. “You have this huge freeway going right thru,” said Kesler, who has lived in Government Hill for over 20 years. She says the state authority's decision to build a bridge and highway in Anchorage's oldest neighborhood is already affecting those around her. “There are people who had been identified for right of way who have lived in this neighborhood for over 50 years, multiple generations in these houses, and these people do not want to move.”
What she is talking about is phase one of the process that is going on right now where KABATA is making offers to buy properties where the proposed construction will be. If owners don't sell, KABATA can force them to through eminent domain. “We use independent appraisers to go out and look at property,” said Shannon McCarthy of KABATA who says they don't want to use the rule. Which is why they are making “right of way” offers now to make sure property and permits are in place for construction, which, they say, will happen in the next year or two. “Acquiring right of way takes a while as it should because you have to come to an agreement with the owner and you have to talk about relocation.”
Representative Les Gara says it's a step in the wrong direction. “Eminent domain is offensive, destroying a neighborhood is offensive,” said Gara (D-Anchorage), who said none of this should be happening because KABATA hasn't even secured funding yet. “This is not a free bridge like they promised two years, but its now a bridge that will probably require upwards of a billion dollars of state money,” said Gara. “The state is going to guarantee the private developer to cover all losses and give them $150 million.” It’s money that KABATA says will be repaid through toll charges.“[The] vast majority of funding for this project will still be private dollars what the $150 million will really serve as a line of credit,” said McCarthy. It's not clear if those dollars are coming through because they are part of current state legislation, which is why residents in Government Hill are telling KABATA to put the bridge somewhere else. “They don't even have a financial plan in place, they do not have funding, they don't even have the bridge planned,” said Kesler. The Government Hill Community Council presented a resolution asking the Knik Arm Crossing to stop all property offers and plans until complete funding is in place. There are bills in the house and senate up for consideration that would secure funding if approved