An Uncle Sam dinosaur adorns part of a float in Juneau’s July 4 by the group Protect Juneau Homeowner’s Privacy, which has successfully put a referendum on the Oct. 4 municipal election ballot to eliminate a requirement that property buyers publicly disclose purchase prices. (Courtesy of Protect Juneau Homeowners’ Privacy)

Petition to repeal city ordinance OK’d; Assembly has until Aug. 1 to repeal rule to nix election vote

“We needed 107. We turned in about 550.”

A referendum eliminating the requirement Juneau property buyers disclose the purchase price is set to appear on the Oct. 4 municipal election ballot after a second signature gathering effort by backers was successful.

The group Protect Juneau Homeowners’ Privacy, composed of local real estate agents and other supporters, were notified Friday by the Juneau City Clerk’s office the minimum of 2,130 signatures of registered voters have been verified.

The group claimed to have collected nearly 3,000 signatures in mid-June when turning in its petition booklets by the initial deadline. But duplicate and other ineligible signatures left the group short and with 10 additional days to make up the shortfall.

“We needed 107,” said Tonja Moser, president of the Southeast Alaska Board of Realtors. “We turned in about 550.”

A quick and highly visible transition to campaigning for the measure was made by the petitioner’s group Protect Juneau Homeowner’s Privacy, whose Jurassic Park-themed float in the July 4 parade featuring riders reining in Uncle Sam dinosaurs won the Most Humorous award.

“Our plan is to just start educating the public,” Moser said. “I would say it’s definitely more supportive than against, but there are some concerns we’ve heard.”

The Assembly can remove the referendum from the ballot by repealing the disclosure ordinance by Aug. 1, according to the certification letter sent by the city clerk’s office on July 1.

The Assembly approved the disclosure in 2020, following a long and contentious public debate, although Assembly Member Christine Woll said last month it is likely the body will continue monitoring of the ordinance’s impact and what voters say at the polls before considering further action on the issue.

The Assembly did unanimously approve a supplemental enforcement ordinance this spring, since there were no penalties for not complying with the disclosure requirement. It imposes a $50-a-day fine for buyers failing to disclose purchase prices by June 27 or 90 days from the transaction date, whichever is later. That action prompted the petition drive to overturn the ordinance.

Exemptions to the disclosure rule exist, including transactions between close family members and associated businesses.

Alaska is among a small number of states that don’t require the final sale price of property transactions to be shared publicly, although municipalities can impose their own requirement. Advocates of disclosure, including local city assessors, argue it results in better annual property assessments and thus fairer rates for taxpayers.

Opponents of the concept, including numerous real estate entities, argue officially assessed prices and sales prices are often entirely different amounts based on numerous variables such as repairs needed, special land features and prevailing rental rates for commercial properties. They also argue disclosure is a violation of the buyer’s privacy, hence that emphasis in the name of the local group seeking the repeal.

The wording of the ballot initiative, which Moser says backers will make a focus of the campaign so voters aren’t confused by it, is as follows:

“Section 1. Repeal of CBJ 15.05.105. Ordinance No. 2020-47(am) entitled ‘An Ordinance Regarding Disclosure of Real Estate Values in Transactions’ and Ordinance No. 2022-13 entitled ‘An Ordinance Repealing the Confidentiality Provision for Real Estate Transaction Disclosures and Establishing a Penalty for Failure to Disclose a Real Estate Transaction,’ which are codified at City and Borough of Juneau Code Sections 15.05.105 and 03.30.070, are hereby repealed. “

One question raised by “an increasing number of former clients” is if the city really will fine buyers who fail to disclose prices between now and the election, Moser said. She said she is telling them to expect fines to be enforced.

Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com.

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