Ossiander hopes to pass Title 21 within six months

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 20:00
Chugiak-Eagle River’s chapter 10 to be included, she says

Anchorage Assembly member and Title 21 committee chair Debbie Ossiander has a goal: Have the entire municipal land use code rewrite — including a Chugiak-Eagle River-specific chapter — in front of the Assembly for a vote within six months.

Before a vote, the Planning and Zoning Commission and Title 21 committee must review all chapters.

The next step is for the Planning and Zoning Commission to review Mayor Dan Sullivan’s proposed changes, which were released Oct. 19 (they can be viewed at www.muni.org/planning). Planning and Zoning will then submit its recommendations to the Title 21 committee.

The Title 21 committee, Ossiander said, will then present its final version to the Assembly for a vote.

The Assembly has provisionally adopted most of Title 21. Work began in 2002 and Title 21 is currently going through a fourth rewrite.

The rewrite began because the current land use code is full of contradictions, Ossiander said.

“It’s kind of messy,” she said. “There’s only certain people in the city that even know how to use it.”

National consulting firm Clarion Associates was hired to write the first draft of the new land use code. The company turned in a restrictive draft, which was not well received, Ossiander said.

It especially irked Chugiak-Eagle River residents, she said.

“That didn’t fit well out here,” Ossiander said. “So people got pretty upset and so that fueled the group who wanted to have a separate (chapter).”

That group — the Consortium of Chugiak-Eagle River Community Councils — petitioned the Assembly to save a placeholder in the Title 21 rewrite for a Chugiak-Eagle River-specific chapter. The Assembly agreed and the consortium, which is made up of one representative from each area community council and an at-large member, drafted Chapter 10. The consortium submitted the chapter to the Assembly, and it was introduced March 8.

Nothing has happened since.

Planning Department staff was supposed to share comments on Chapter 10 at the Planning and Zoning Commission’s Aug. 8 meeting, however, that didn’t happen. Staff recommendations weren’t made because Planning Department resources had been devoted to finalizing the Title 21 rewrite, senior planner Tom Davis said at the meeting.

With strong support from Vice Chair Connie Yoshimura, the Planning and Zoning Commission passed a motion requiring Chapter 10 be on the same level of review as the provisionally adopted chapters of Title 21 by Oct. 3.

That didn’t happen either.

According to Ossiander, the Planning Department said it wanted to wait to give its recommendations until Sullivan’s changes were released.

As of Tuesday, Oct. 25, Ossiander was still waiting to meet with Jerry Weaver, municipal community development director, to discuss the future of Title 21.

According to the municipality’s website, the Planning and Zoning Commission will begin discussing Title 21 amendments at its Dec. 12 meeting. The public will have a chance to speak during the Planning and Zoning Commission and Assembly meetings.


Separate Girdwood chapter

Chapter 10 has a precedent. Girdwood developed Chapter 9 to have a land use code that follows its comprehensive plan, Ossiander said. The same reasoning is behind Chapter 10, she said.

“A lot of people strongly felt that we are not the same as Spenard,” Ossiander said. “It’s buttressed by the fact we have our separate comprehensive plan.”

The Anchorage 2020 Comprehensive Plan is a development blueprint for the Anchorage Bowl. It’s not the plan for the entire municipality, Ossiander said.

Ossiander stressed the importance of the distinction between the Anchorage Bowl plan and the Chugiak-Eagle River Comprehensive Plan.

“It’s frustrating the number of people that say, ‘The comprehensive plan,’” Ossiander said. “I say, ‘No. It’s a plan. It’s not the plan.’”


Consultant hired

Last year, Mayor Sullivan hired former Assemblyman Dan Coffey as a consultant on the Title 21 rewrite. He ignored the Chugiak-Eagle River chapter, Ossiander said.

“Dan Coffey didn’t even look at Chapter 10,” she said. “Our stuff was not on the table.”

Ossiander was elected to the Assembly in 2003. The 35-year Chugiak resident said the municipal land use code was her reason for seeking office.

“There were a couple of things happening that made me think that the city didn’t value a rural lifestyle,” Ossiander said. “We were all becoming more like one big glob like downtown Anchorage. I think people should have options on how they live.”


A look at Chapter 10

The first distinction Chapter 10 makes from the Title 21 rewrite is renaming its zoning districts. All have a “CE” prefix in Chapter 10.

“The whole reason for that is so people will realize it’s not the same (as Anchorage),” Ossiander said. “They will be distinct in reminding people where they are.”


Keeps R-5 district

Chapter 10 retains the R-5 zoning district, whereas the Title 21 rewrite removes it. The CE-R-5 residential district permits mobile homes on lots.

“If you live in Anchorage, you can’t have a lot with a mobile home on it,” Ossiander said.

The CE-R-5 district is different from the zoning district that trailer parks fall under, she said.


Creates new zone

Chapter 10 creates a new zoning district, CE-B-3. It’s intended for rural commercial businesses, Ossiander said.

The new district is needed to avoid unnecessary rules imposed by the Anchorage 2020 Comprehensive Plan, Ossiander said.

For example, Anchorage’s plan doesn’t allow businesses to sit in the rear of the lot with parking in front, Ossiander said. The business must be located close to the sidewalk and have connected pathways so people can walk from the sidewalk into the front door, she said. This is part of Anchorage’s plan for a more walkable and business-friendly city, Ossiander said.

But it’s not necessarily appropriate for Chugiak-Eagle River, Ossiander said.

A business in Peters Creek most likely won’t get very many walk-in patrons, she said. Chugiak-Eagle River businesses need more flexibility, Ossiander said.

Ossiander said more work needs to be done on the CE-B-3 district before it gets to the Assembly.


Birchwood Airport

Chapter 10 handles airports differently than the Title 21 rewrite. Title 21 creates a transition zone, which doesn’t recognize Ted Stevens International Airport, Ossiander said. Chapter 10, on the other hand, recognizes the Birchwood Airport as an airport district, she said.


Allowed uses

Both the Title 21 rewrite and Chapter 10 include tables outlining permitted uses within each zoning district.

If the cell is empty, the use is prohibited; a “P” indicates permitted uses; an “S” indicates the use requires administrative site plan review; an “M” indicates the use requires major site plan review; a “C” indicates the use is allowed only if reviewed and approved as a conditional use.

Cells can contain multiple letters.

Feelings are mixed on the allowed-use tables, Ossiander said.

“Some people really like it and other people hate it,” she said. “It’s a good thing to have, but it sort of depends on what people’s tastes are.”

Ossiander said all municipal residents need to see what’s permitted in their zoning districts and voice any concerns before Title 21 passes. Because once it passes, it’s law, she said.


Other differences

Ossiander cited other differences between Chapter 10 and the Title 21 rewrite. Chapter 10 isn’t as strict on horse owners, has more flexibility for home-based businesses and offers more flexibility for people fixing cars outside their home, she said.


Understanding Chapter 10

To grasp the information in Chapter 10, a copy of the Title 21 rewrite needs to be close by, Ossiander said. Chapter 10 often references the Title 21 rewrite and adds amendments to the way it’s worded, she said.

Ossiander said a majority of residents are clueless when it comes to Title 21.

“Most people don’t know what’s in it,” she said.

Those who do understand the land use code are divided, Ossiander said, but more so in Anchorage than Chugiak-Eagle River.

“There’s a conflict in Anchorage,” she said. “There are people who want more controls and there are people who want to be left alone. The challenge is to try and find something that works. My sense is there’s a little more left alone people out here than in Anchorage.”


Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com


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