WASILLA — The Wasilla City Council moved one step closer to finalizing the sale of Meta Rose Square and the historic downtown Clock Tower. The Council passed ordinance 18-13 unanimously, approving Mayor Bert Cottle to execute and deliver a contract for the sale of Meta Rose Square for $975,000 to Sung Son Yu.The council meeting lasted more than three and a half hours, but it was not due to the sale of the square, as discussion was limited and mostly in support of the sale.
The Council declared April to be Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Council also provided a rare opportunity for Mayor Bert Cottle to be the shortest man in a photo when the Wasilla High boys basketball team was honored for winning the 4A State Championship. The council heard reports from their student representatives. Katelyn Boswell of Wasilla High, dressed in ROTC camouflage, detailed activities within her school over the last few months. Due to spring break and weather causing school closures, Boswell had not delivered a report since January. Boswell discussed the Every Fifteen Minutes campaign impending at Wasilla High which details the dangers of impaired driving. Louise Eaton, a freshmen at Burchell, gave her first report ever as student representative.
City Attorney Leslie Need detailed the open meetings act, a refresher that the council hears yearly so that they operate with transparency for the city they serve. Troy Tankersly detailed the finances for FY19 and detailed the low sales tax numbers that came in below the projected amount in 2017. The projections were adjusted for FY18. Wasilla spends more than 42 percent of their total revenue on public safety. Tankersly’s projections put Wasilla more than 8 million in the black in 2019.
At the end of more than three and half hours, Mike Dryden made a bold declaration during his council comments.
“This meeting will go down in the annals of council meetings as the birds and the bees meeting,” said Dryden.
The most hotly contested ordinance of the night was 18-12, “Amending Wasilla Municipal Code Section 16.04.070, Definitions, To Add Definitions For “Beehives”, “Exotic Animal”, “Pet Animal”, “Poultry”, And “Wild Animal”; Amending Section 16.04.070, Definitions, To Revise The Definitions For “Agriculture”, “Animal Husbandry”, And “Farm Animal”; Amending Section 16.16.060, Specific Approval Criteria, To Revise The Criteria That Regulates Farm Animals, Poultry, And Beehives; Amending Section 16.20.020, District Use Chart, To Identify The Appropriate Zoning Districts And Permit Types For Beehives, Exotic Animals, Poultry, And Wild Animals; And Other Minor Revisions.”
The debate was wide ranging, as a beekeeper in the audience came up for public comment that resulted in a moratorium on further deliberations over regulation of bees and bee height at property lines. Wasilla modeled their regulations after those passed in Kenai.
“I suspect the drafters weren’t familiar with the way bees behave,” said Ringel.
Six amendments followed the ordinance once it was moved to the floor, nearly all of which were also hotly contested. The Council finally passed all of their six amendments nearing the three-hour mark.
The Council then moved to the sale of Meta Rose Square, the 40-year-old building that had been purchased for 1.5 million by the Council in 2009 for the purpose of eventually becoming the site for the new library. When it was determined that the structural integrity of the building would not withstand the weight of books, the City began leasing the building and quietly looking for a buyer. The City has been openly looking for a new owner for the past two years, and the building was appraised at 1.5 million in 2016. $975,000 is the highest offer the Council has seen, as Deputy Mayor Stu Graham said, the city is happy to get out of the private sector and complete the sale to Yu. Graham also detailed that the costs of buying the building compared to what the city earned leasing it and will earn selling it, pending the contract from Yu, will essentially break even.
“I think it was purchased for the wrong reasons and I think you’re selling it for the wrong reasons,” said Kevin Baker during public comment. Baker would like to see a clock at the corner of Crusey and Swanson, where the new library sits now. With the plans for the building still unclear, the council liked the idea of a new clock tower.