Birchwood council votes to oppose utility expansion

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 11:48

A proposed water and sewer line expansion in Chugiak continues to generate strong opposition among neighborhood residents.

The Birchwood Community Council recently passed a resolution stating its “serious concerns” about the potential expansion, which municipal and Eklutna, Inc. officials say is needed to develop a proposed subdivision in the area.

“We had a lengthy conversation about it,” said BCC chair Kevin McNamara of the council’s Oct. 11 meeting.

He could have easily said “lengthy conversations,” as the topic has dominated the council’s meetings since the proposal became public at summer’s end.

The council’s resolution lays out a number of concerns, including the potential for high-density housing to conflict with the CER Comprehensive Plan and the potential for lot assessments to increase. For those reasons, the council said it opposes the expansion.

“It’s something that isn’t very popular in the district, especially some of the long-standing residents,” he said.

McNamara said a task force is being created to bring all the stakeholders together to address the issue. He’s hopeful the municipality and Eklutna Inc. will listen to locals’ concerns.

“We would like to be party to any conversation that goes on,” he said.

The BCC meeting was one of several local community council meetings held this month as the councils resume their normal monthly meeting schedules. Also meeting earlier this month were the Eagle River, South Fork and Eagle River Valley councils.

At the Eagle River meeting, Anchorage Assembly member Amy Demboski said water and sewer issues are a hot topic, noting that an administrative re-write of the municipal code is ongoing. Demboski suggested the re-write might be something the local councils could meet about as a whole.

“I think this is one you’ll at least want to meet and talk about,” she said.

The local community councils can call a meeting of the Chugiak-Eagle River Advisory Board — which is made up of members from each of the area’s six community councils — to discuss issues important to all councils. As of Tuesday, such a meeting had not yet been scheduled to talk about water and sewer issues.

The Chugiak Community Council meets on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Elsie Oberg Center on the Old Glenn Highway in Chugiak.

Councils serve in an advisory capacity to the Anchorage Assembly. Although council resolutions are nonbinding, assembly members do take them into account when making municipal decisions. Council agendas and schedules can be found on the Federation of Community Councils website at communitycouncils.org. Anyone can attend a community council meeting, although residents must live within the council’s boundaries in order to vote or serve as a member.

Here’s the complete resolution as adopted:

Adopted: October 11th,2017

The Birchwood Community Council has serious concerns about the possible expansion of public water and sewer into our large lot, rural neighborhood.

Whereas, public water and sewer infrastructure serves as a significant impetus encouraging greater residential density, and

Whereas, our CER Comprehensive Plan calls repeatedly for the protection and support of our low density rural neighborhoods, and specifically calls on public utility systems to avoid areas designated for low-density large lot residential development, and

Whereas, Birchwood is one of most stable, large lot rural neighborhoods in Chugiak with many large lot homes that were built and are lived in by original homesteaders, and

Whereas, the existing tariff unfairly charges large lot residential properties significantly more than smaller lot properties. In some cases, potential assessments could be far greater than the value of existing homes, and

Whereas, AWWU should have updated their master plans to be in accord with our Comprehensive Plan years ago.

Now therefore the Birchwood Community Council Resolves to oppose the expansion of public water and sewer into our neighborhood and calls on the Municipality and AWWU to support our Comprehensive Plan.

Birchwood Community Council

Kevin McNamara

Chair

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