Plans to subdivide old mill property

Plans are in motion to subdivide the old mill property around 6.5 mile Zimovia Highway, according to Terri Wenger with Anchor Properties. The property, currently owned by Betty Buhler, has been on the market for quite some time. On the Anchor Properties website the almost 39-acre lot is listed at $2.7 million. Wenger said that the plan is to subdivide the land into 11 lots, ranging in size from one to three acres.

"I could be wrong, but I think that it could be possibly the biggest private land deal in Wrangell that could probably ever happen," she said.

The old sawmill site comes with a deep water port, according to Anchor Properties' website, three existing warehouses and a mechanic shop. Wenger also pointed out that the floating bunkhouse, which used to house workers when the mill was in operation, is also still there. When lots begin to sell sometime in the near future, she said they will largely be going as-is, some work will need to be done on the lots to clean them up but not much. A lot of the old mill is paved she pointed out. This means that it should be of interest to anyone wishing to develop without having to dig up muskeg. The old mill property is currently zoned "waterfront industrial," which Wenger said meant that basically anything could be built there except for residential buildings. If someone wanted to rezone their lot, she said they could discuss it with the Planning and Zoning Commission after they bought it.

"Just the opportunity here is awesome," she said.

As many Wrangell residents know, the property is an important part of Wrangell's history. According to a 2016 article in the Wrangell Sentinel, written by Frank Roppel, during the timber industry's heyday the Wrangell sawmill employed as many as 240 full-time workers, as well as an additional 32 longshoremen. From 1970 to 1995, the article reads, the cities of Ketchikan, Metlakatla, Klawock, Haines, Petersburg, and Wrangell all had large sawmill operations. During its lifetime, the Wrangell sawmill produced 4.5 billion board feet of lumber.

"With the passage of the Tongass Timber Reform Act by Congress in 1990, the supply of timber needed by the two pulp mills and large export sawmills was severely curtailed, and large scale operations ceased shortly thereafter," the article reads. "Alaska Pulp Corporation (originally ALP) closed its Wrangell sawmill at Shoemaker Bay in 1995. The mill was later sold to Richard Buhler of Silver Bay Logging, who continued to operate the mill intermittently until 2008, only when logs were available."

Wenger said that they intend to bring their plans for subdivision to the planning and zoning commission during their next meeting, currently scheduled for Dec. 12. While she could not give a rough estimate on how much the planned 11 lots would cost, she said that they would be more affordable than $2.7 million for the entire property. She said that she has been excited about seeing this property be put to good use. Wrangell needs more land for industrial development, she said, and this property could help with that.

"The investment's already there, the problem is that it's just being left to deteriorate," Wenger said. "There's enough infrastructure there that is salvageable. That was my main point, to get it on the market before it just becomes an alder field. The town needs it."

 

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