Proposal for Golf Course in Girdwood Continues to be Controversial

Anchorage administrators would like to rewrite local laws making it legal to sell or lease property below fair-market value. The issue came about after a superior court judge ruled that if a golf course is to be built in Girdwood, as intended, the property would have to be leased and sold at fair-market value, as dictated by city code. A municipal commission plans to hold public hearings before the Anchorage Assembly votes on whether or not it will alter city laws.

If the change is approved, the one stipulation will be to prove there is a public benefit which would be decided by the Anchorage Assembly. Valerie Brown, an attorney with Trustees for Alaska told the Anchorage Daily News that the “public benefit” is not defined. “If someone comes to the city and says we’d like to build condos on Virgin Creek (in Girdwood), the municipality could let them have the land for free if someone says there’s a public benefit.” She added, there are no requirements for it to be weighed against the cost to the public for such things as roads or the loss of open space.

City officials believe a golf course would transform Girdwood from a winter ski destination into a year-round resort. The project was originally awarded to Glacier Valley Development Corp., which planned to spend $10 million building a 330-acre, 18-hole course. Glacier Valley would have received a 55-year lease and an additional 40 acres sold at $7,000 per acre for golf-course housing. In return, the city would be given a percentage of the greens fees.

City code is not the only issue preventing full support of a golf course in Girdwood. The idea of replacing an undeveloped rain forest and potentially threatening the bird and salmon habitat angers environmentalists and has divided the community on the issue.