THE CITY AND BOROUGH OF JUNEAU, ALASKA
MAY 11, 1998
MEETING NO. 98-16: The Special meeting of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, held in the Assembly Chambers of the Municipal Building, was called to order at 5:00 p.m. by Mayor Dennis Egan.
Assembly Present: Garrett, Kibby, MacKinnon, Perkins, Powell, Egan, Hagevig, Muñoz (arrived at 5:20), and Koelsch
Assembly Absent: None
A quorum was present.
Staff Present: Marian Miller, Municipal Clerk; Dave Palmer, City Manager; John Hartle, Assistant City Attorney; Craig Duncan, Finance Director; Shane Horan, City Assessor
EXPORT MANUFACTORING EXEMPTION
Administrative Report: Attached. Mr. Horan recommended the Assembly approve Alaska Brewing & Bottling’s request to exempt $935,277 with the following breakdown: in the business personal property account, $846,877, and under the real property accounts, $88,400.
Public Testimony: None
MOTION – by MacKinnon, to approve the exception to Alaskan Brewing & Bottling Company. There being no objection, it was so ordered.
Administrative Report: Attached. Mr. Horan recommended the Assembly approve Alaska Bullet Works request to exempt $33,150 in assessable property under the business personal property account.
Public Testimony: None
MOTION – by Hagevig, to approve the Export Manufacturing Exemption for Alaska Bullet Works as recommended by the Assessor’s office. There being no objection, it was so ordered.
Administrative Report: Attached. Mr. Palmer recommended this exemption request be denied based upon the findings and recommendations of the Assessor.
Paul Young, Director of Administrative Services for SEARHC, commented that as cited in his previous letter, SEARHC is a 501(c)(3) corporation and currently has property where the clinic is located that is exempt. He said the property in question is in use. They have a sweat lodge located there which is a structure that is created for a variety of purposes, namely for people who want to go there as part of their mental health program. SEARHC has a holistic approach to health which includes spiritually, mental health and physical health. The sweat lodge serves a purpose in that it provides an outlet to people who want to participate in that activity. He thought that accomplished SEARHC’s charitable purposes as it helps them in their prevention programs and with the mental health program. The letter that he received from the city cited two cases, first the Greater Anchorage Borough vs. the Sister of Charity. He thought that case pertained to property that was located next to the hospital that was being rented to Doctors who had staff privileges at the hospital. SEARHC does not have anything that they are renting on the property. The second case that was cites was the City of Nome vs. the Catholic Bishop. In that case, there was reference to how the property was used, residential property for the assistant pastor and used by volunteers who worked on the site. SEARHC has neither of those on the property. They do have property at 3200 and 3220 Hospital Drive which is similar to the first case cited in that they do have other organizations on that property, particularly the Valley Medical Center, and they do pay taxes on that property. SEARHC has rapidly expanded in the last few years. They are trying to catch up with their facilities planning. They recently purchased a clinic on Prince of Whales, in Angoon, Haines, and Kake. Because time and money was used to take care of these new properties, they deferred any construction activities on this vacant lot until they can get funding for it. It is not just that they are trying to keep this property off the tax rolls.
Mr. Garrett asked Mr. Young the exact location of the sweat lodge. Mr. Young said it was right in the middle of the property. One area is used as a storage area and one is used as a staging area.
Frank Alby, Supervisory Purchasing Agent for SEARHC and a spiritual leader as far as the native activities that go on there. He was the person who built the ceremonial sweat lodge on the subject vacant lot. A sweat lodge, for them, is kind of like a church. They have a ceremony and pray. They heat stones and bring the red-hot stones into the lodge and pour water over the stones which creates a steam bath. The ceremony may last one and a half to three hours, depending on how many people and the concerns. It is something that is over in Sitka and various locations where they have clinics that use the holistic approach to the mental health. It is an activity that is supported by the mental health staff at SEARHC medical clinic.
Mr. Garrett asked Mr. Horan that if there was a church there instead of a this facility, would the whole parcel of property be considered tax exempt. Mr. Horan said yes.
Mr. Horan said he did walk the property and he asked Mr. Ably to describe the sweat lodge. Mr. Alby said it was a dome shaped building, about five feet high. It is made with Alder or Willow and has a covering on top of sleeping bags and canvas, to hold the heat in. There is a pit inside which holds the hot stones. There is a fire pit outside in which they heat the stones. There can be a ceremony with just men or just women or co-ed. They sweat at least once a week. It is open to the public and people from the community come to use the sweat lodge. He lets people know via the E-mail of when "services" will be held.
Mr. Powell said that under the law, there are lines which have to be fulfilled, and they bind the Assessor. The property must be directly incidental to and vitally necessary if you are to fall under the exemption. He clarified that it is frequently used for spiritual reasons and asked if it was a permanent structure. Mr. Alby said that it is not a permanent structure, it can be taken down and rebuilt. It is very important to be in that location because of the type of ceremony. It needs to be quiet, where there is privacy and you can commune with nature and be a part of it.
Mr. Powell said the exemption to the property also says it is used exclusively for religious and other things. Mr. Alby said that at this point, it is used exclusively for that purpose.
Ms. Hagevig asked his estimation of a percentage of the land in question that is used for this purpose. Mr. Alby said about one half acre. Ms. Hagevig clarified the total parcel is 2.3 acres. He said the site may be closer to an acre because of the size of the fire pit.
Ms. Hagevig asked Mr. Hartle if there was any precedence that provides for a percentage of taxation on a parcel that is partially used for an excludable reason. Mr. Hartle said yes there is. Case law in Alaska provides for spatial apportionment by square foot of different uses of property. That was one of the items in the Nome case.
Ms. Hagevig asked when the structure went on the property. Mr. Alby said they built the structure in August of last year.
Mr. Duncan clarified that Mr. Horan walked the parcel in March, and according to him, he did not see anything on the parcel. Also, this was not indicated in their request for exemption nor after it was declined, in discussions with Mr. Horan. This is the first time that staff is hearing this as well.
Mr. Kibby would like a response at some time, given the material that is now known, if staff would approve this or deny it. Mr. Horan said he would probably recommend apportionment. Mr. Kibby did not remember ever having a proportional amount ever exempted for different religious affiliates who had lots adjoining their actual buildings or structures that were vacant.
Mr. Horan said the Shrine is one example where they did come in last year requesting that the walkway along the beach frontage become exempt as a meditation path. That had been taxed in the past and he accepted that portion of the beachfront that was used for the path and meditation purposes. They had placed benches there overlooking the water but retained the taxable status of the uphill property. Mr. Kibby asked if once these folks establish a building that would be related to their existing building, would then this parcel become tax exempt. Mr. Horan said yes.
Mayor Egan asked Mr. Alby if the building was208 ft by 208 ft because that would be an acre. Mr. Alby said no, it is not that big, the building might be 12 ft in diameter but you also have a fire pit that sits across and there is wood stacked. It is all part of the facility being used or the area being used. Mr. Alby added that when people come to the ceremony they are asked to not park close to the area because they want to hold down the noise and activity around that particular area.
MOTION – by Garrett, to grant an exemption on 42% of the property, which would equal one acre. The findings would be based on the type of use as a sweat lodge and spiritual purposes that that is put forward to.
Mr. MacKinnon clarified that that would be a spatial exemption of 42% of the entire area. Mayor Egan said it would be 42% of the $407,200.
There being no objection, it was so ordered.
Mayor Egan stated that this item had been withdrawn.
SENIOR CITIZEN HARDSHIP
Administrative Report: Attached. Mr. Palmer recommended the exemption request for these parcels be approved based upon the findings and recommendations of the Assessor.
Mr. MacKinnon asked if these could all be approved in mass as Mr. Horan has recommended approval of all of the exemptions. Mr. Hartle agreed that would be okay.
MOTION – by MacKinnon, to move the five recommendations brought forward with the findings, and move for those exemptions. There being no objection, it was so ordered.
Marian Miller, Clerk