Alaska mulls change to land auction procedures

ANCHORAGE — The state of Alaska is considering changes to the way it sells land to the public after a Washington man won 60 land parcels in a recent auction but purchased only one.

Joe Carrillo of Wenatchee, Washington, won more than half of the parcels offered in an Alaska Division of Mining, Land and Water drawing sale Sept. 16, according to the Alaska Dispatch News.

Carrillo said he was just trying to play the odds in hopes of winning a parcel and that he didn’t expect to be so lucky.

“I had no idea which one I would win, because it’s a lottery,” Carrillo said. “So I applied for a bunch that I was interested in, hoping I would get one, and I ended up getting a whole bunch. I was very surprised.”

Kathryn Young, the Department of Natural Resources section manager, said because the credit card Carrillo provided when he signed up for the drawing was invalid, he wasn’t forced to pay the 5 percent payment on the parcels he turned down.

“We have never seen anyone apply for, or reject this many (parcels of land). So, for the few that this has happened to – it has not been worth our time, or effort, to go after them for $500 or $2,000,” Young said. “We will be reviewing our process and rethink some of our policies.”

For the 60 properties Carrillo won, Young said the bill would have been about $29,000.

Each year, the state sells hundreds of parcels of land. Much of the property comes from the federal government or lots it already owns and many are in remote areas. In those sales, land is initially offered only to Alaska residents. Anything left over moves to an initial over the counter drawing, which is open to anyone.

The state said Carrillo was the only applicant on 42 of the parcels he won and was drawn from multiple candidates on another 18 pieces of land.

Young said Carrillo didn’t break any rules other than using an invalid credit card on his application, but due to the volume of complaints, the Department of Natural Resources is looking at its policies for such sales.

“We were all surprised,” Young said. “We have never had this happen before and whenever something new happens it’s an opportunity to look at the process and see what’s working and not working, and keep a fair and transparent process.”

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