An ambitious proposal to develop about 300 acres of Ketchikan Gateway Borough-owned property off Revilla Road into a residential community — complete with a senior center, churches, schools and stores — received a tentative green light from the Borough Assembly Monday.
During a special meeting scheduled primarily for that issue, the Assembly voted 3-3 on a motion to allow Ward Cove Group six months to further develop its proposals. Mayor David Landis broke the tie in favor of allowing the process to move forward.
David Spokely is president of Ward Cove Group, and he answered questions from the Assembly for about two hours Monday night.
The development would begin with utilities, which Spokely said would not be difficult. He already has developed parts of Ward Cove, and has a sewage treatment plant in place that can handle 25,000 gallons a day. His business also controls Connell Lake Dam and the pipeline leading from that lake to Ward Cove. He said that could provide potable water.
For electric, Spokely said he already talked with Ketchikan Public Utilities.
“They already have the transformers in place. They have all the equipment in place to put a 5 megawatt transformer out there, and substation,” he said. “So, electricity is easily, economically done.”
After that, Spokely said they would build the senior center, which would be close to the intersection of Revilla Road and North Tongass Highway.
General housing and a retail center would follow, also close to that intersection. Later on, as the need arises, single-family homes, schools and churches could be developed on property further up Revilla Road, close to Ward Lake.
The last section proposed for potential development would be property that has some popular hiking trails – Salvage Trail and portions of Ward Creek Trail.
Earlier in the meeting, Eric Muench spoke against including the property with trails in the development proposal. He said that area – called Tract B – should be withdrawn.
“That tract B has a full mile of the Ward Creek Trail that would be either obliterated or obstructed or heavily degraded by the development shown on the aerial photo,” he said. “As well as a half mile of connecting trail that would be similarly disrupted.”
Spokely said the trails could remain even with the development, although they likely would be within sight of housing.
Borough Assembly members questioned Spokely about finances, which he said would include bank loans and private investments, and perhaps funding through the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
There was concern about his proposal to lease the property while further planning takes place, with the option to purchase at the end of that time. Some Assembly members said they prefer selling the property outright, although that, too is potentially problematic. There is some question about what the land is actually worth.
In the end, those that supported the motion said they want to see what kind of development plan Spokely comes up with in six months. With Monday’s vote, he has that time to investigate the property more thoroughly and negotiate details with borough officials.