The Chugiak-Eagle River Advisor Board met for two hours Sat., Feb. 11 to address three issues of concern in the Chugiak-Eagle River (CER) area.
First was AM34-2017, an ordinance due for public testimony before the Anchorage Assembly of Feb. 14. The ordinance amends subsections of Title 21, Land Use Planning, regarding steep slope building design standards and the determination slope grade and height standards. The resolution (2016-047) was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) on Dec. 5, 2016
The Board listened to Dave Whitfield of the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) Planning Department’s description of the changes suggested in the ordinance. Modifications included establishing a basis for grade plane for determination of building height, exempting Class A Zoning from the requirements and eliminating the 25-foot height limitation above existing grade. The new ordinance would also “require(s) foundations to be designed by an engineer for those buildings within the Municipality, but outside of the Anchorage Building Safety Service Area.” Whitfield said all sections would impact the Chugiak-Eagle River Service Area.
The last sentence became the sticking point for CERAB.
Co-chair Debbie Ossiander gave a brief history of the lengthy and tedious work put into Title 21 over the decade. She also reminded the Board and audience of Chapter 10 of the Title, addressing the unique and separate plans for land north of the weigh station in the MOA – specifically Chugiak and Eagle River. Ossiander and others believed CER should not be impacted by the ordinance that was clearly based on concerns in the Rabbit Creek and Hillside areas.
The ordinance specifically addresses and references the Hillside area in South Anchorage reading, “The steep slope requirements were developed principally for use on the Hillside and codify recommendations of the Hillside District Plan. For many of our steep urban sites, such as Bootlegger’s Cove, Campbell Lake and other locations in the Anchorage Bowl, the requirements unnecessarily restrict re-development.”
There was no mention of exempting CER from this ordinance – which is a concern of Ossiander. Mike Foster, President of Eagle River Community Council, suggested that without noting and acknowledging Chapter 10 of Title 21, that the “lines were being pushed” and the comprehensive plan of CER was not being honored.
Discussion covered the current practices in CER and the restrictions and cost that would follow the passage of the modifications as written. Addressing the first section, speakers from the Anchorage Homebuilders Association, Paul and Karen Michaelson, approved the resolutions methods for determining the maximum height of the building have been difficult and the ordinance gave developers more flexibility. That flexibility was the Michaelson’s main concern. They did not comment on the fourth section concerning engineer approval of foundations.
After public testimony and Board debate, the Board voted 5-1 to forward a resolution to the Assembly asking the section requiring the design approval of an engineer be removed from the ordinance in front of the Assembly on Tuesday.
The second agenda item asked for discussion and clarification regarding the recent rezoning application for the development of the new Ernie Turner Journey Recovery Center on Eklutna Lake Road. Eklutna Valley Community Council and the Native Village of Eklutna both supported the plans by Eklunta, Inc., Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC), and Cook Inlet Housing Authority (CIHA) to build the center.
Discussion addressed potential impact the center might have on the emergency services, specifically the Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department(CVFD). The Board also discussed the relationship the new Medical Clinic in Eklutna had with the Center and the CVFD. Kevin McNamara, Birchwood Community Council President, suggested the Board specify in any resolution that emergency calls to the CVFD would require CVFD transportation be only to emergency medical facilities in Wasilla and Anchorage.
The Board resolved to support the Ernie Turner Center with notations that CER Land Use Plans included recognizing the impact on community services when creating developments.
The final consideration before CERAB came from the Chugiak and Eagle River Community Councils in a request for a resolution concerning the Heritage Land Bank(HLB) plans for higher density housing above and around the Harry MacDonald Center in the Carol Creek Land Use Plan. The two councils, with support from the Eagle River Valley Community Council, believed the information regarding land use plans over the year from HLB and the contrast with presentations from AWWU about a necessary water reservoir was misleading.
Those with objections to HLB’s plan cited differences from 2006 and 2010 plan that had been developed with members of the community. The original plans negotiated a density of 125. The current plan recently approved in December by HLB went as high as 537. Residents and community councils described presentations from spring of 2016 to December 2016 that had differing numbers and rhetoric.
In addition, the history and motivation behind the changing numbers were questioned, although it was acknowledged that one set of numbers had been unintentionally been inaccurately calculated and later corrected.
While all groups and individuals supported the construction of the AWWU water reservoir, they expressed frustration with the public process as changes in numbers progressed without consistency in the dissemination of information, and without concurrent public hearings.
In order to create a strong resolution, Ossiander invited members of the Board and the community to offer data and history. The Board resolved to oppose HLB’s resolution and land use plan, now on it’s way to PZC, while recognizing community support for the water reservoir.
PZC has not yet set a date for hearing the HLB resolution.