New owners of Wasilla 4-plex surprised after DOT levels privacy trees

Tenants living in the complex are concerned have safety concerns with the new landscape
Tenants living in the complex are concerned have safety concerns with the new landscape
Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 8:02 PM AKDT
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - After being designated as a Safety Corridor in 2009 by the State of Alaska, Knik-Goose Bay Road finally began phase 1 of a four-mile reconstruction project last month.

The project will expand the corridor to a four-lane divided roadway between Centaur Avenue to Fairview Loop. The Department of Transportation has been working around the clock clearing existing public right-of-ways to make room for road expansion.

However, one property owner of a four-plex in the area was surprised to see a video taken by a tenant last month, shocked that the privacy trees that surrounded three sides of the complex had been leveled — including the backside of the property that faces the notoriously dangerous road.

“My whole backyard is gone, like, my kid has nowhere to play next summer,” said Amber Bolam, a tenant in the complex.

Bolam has lived in her apartment for the last three years and said all the tenants use the back area for family functions. Despite being close to the road, she said it was thickly surrounded by a wooded area to the point where people even had a hard time finding the place.

Owner Russ Elliot purchased the complex in January of this year and has his daughter, Suzy Campbell, managing the property. Campbell said they had no idea the department had plans to clear the trees and that nothing was disclosed in their For Sale By Owner transaction with the previous owner, Don McKay.

“We were not aware that that was going to happen,” Campbell said. “This is not a good situation for (the tenants).”

Elliot and Campbell reached out to the department to see if they could help mitigate the impact on the property. Campbell said they were responsive to communication, but ultimately not responsible.

“They said their hands are tied, they can’t do anything to change this,” Campbell said.

The department provided Elliot and Campbell with temporary construction easement and permit paperwork that the previous owner had signed in November of 2020. Since Elliot didn’t purchase the property until 2022, he was unaware the documents existed.

In a phone conversation on Thursday afternoon, previous owner Don McKay acknowledged that he was aware of the plan to widen the road, but didn’t know the the department would down the privacy trees in the process.

The administrative operations manager for the department, Justin Shelby, said this project has been in the planning process for a long time and that all property owners subjected to its impact were notified.

“Property owners were contacted, you know, years prior — so 2020, 2021 — regarding the work that was going to be done in the area including the clearing of trees in the right-of-way,” Shelby said.

This leaves Elliot, Campbell, and their tenants unsure of what to do next, as the construction project aimed at improving safety on Knik-Goose Bay Road has left their residential property more exposed.