Councils tackle land use, crime issues

Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 14:13

Land use and crime are the hottest topics facing Chugiak-Eagle River residents this month, with several key meetings and issues on the docket at a flurry of meetings scheduled between now and the year-end holidays. Among the biggest are ongoing conflicts between the municipal officials keen on more development in Chugiak-Eagle River and residents who’d prefer things stay much the same in the semi-rural neighborhoods north of Anchorage.

Here’s a rundown of some of the key issues facing local community councils and boards this month:

Carol Creek to get public hearing

The yearlong debate over a proposal by the Heritage Land Bank to increase the allowable density on a parcel of land between the Harry J. McDonald Center and Fred Meyer is far from over.

On Monday, Dec. 11, the Anchorage Planning and Zoning Commission will hear testimony on the plan, which would change the site specific plan to allow for as many as 378 units on the site. The current plan allows for 125 units. The HLB manages unsold municipal land for the benefit of all Anchorage residents. Although there is no specific development plan in place, the HLB wants the rezone in order to accommodate any future development down the road.

Sandy Quimby has been fighting the plan since it was first brought to her attention last winter.

“I just keep picking away,” said Quimby, who has been organizing locals against the proposal, which she feels isn’t in keeping with the character of the neighborhood and doesn’t fit with the existing comprehensive plan.

Quimby has been holding meetings and distributing information about the proposal via email. Neighbors thought they’d quashed the idea for good when a municipal land planner told the Star in June no development was planned. But the HLB never stopped pushing to change the density, and it will now be up to Planning and Zoning whether to forward the proposal to the full Anchorage Assembly.

Residents oppose the change because they believe it doesn’t fit with the character of the neighborhood, conflicts with the comprehensive plan and would bring a much higher density than can be supported by existing bus routes and employment in the immediate area.

Opponents of the proposal are hoping for a big show of force at the Planning and Zoning meeting, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11 in the Loussac Library Assembly Chambers. Quimby said people can also submit comments to PNZ by Dec. 8 at 1 p.m.

The density change is just one part of changes being made a the site, but the only one that’s controversial. In addition to the HLB rezone request, the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility wants to change the site specific plan to allow for a new water storage reservoir.

Almost nobody has spoken out against the reservoir, but local community councils have passed several resolutions against the density change, as has the full Chugiak-Eagle River Advisory Board — twice. Still, Quimby said the Chugiak-Eagle River residents need to make sure Planning and Zoning commissioners understand their point of view.

“The people need to send their comments and tell them what they think,” she said.

Neighborhood residents have discussed how to best get their message across during public testimony.

“There are so many talking points, we want to make sure everything gets covered,” she said.

Quimby said anyone wanting more information can contact her at saquimby@gmail.com.

Birchwood still opposed to water line

Just a bit down the highway, residents of Birchwood are fighting their own battle against a municipal land use proposal they feel could have a big impact on their neighborhood.

Earlier this year, municipal officials announced a proposal to build a water transmission line through the area in order to accommodate a new housing development in the area. Known as the “Powder Reserve” neighborhood, the development will be built by Eklutna Inc. as part of a legal settlement stemming from a natural gas dispute between the Municipality of Anchorage and Eklutna, the largest landholder in the municipality.

The line won’t be used to benefit existing Birchwood residents, who won’t be able to tie into it.

Birchwood residents have fiercely opposed the idea for a variety of reasons, including fears of increased property tax levies in the future. The issue has generated significant discussion at the Birchwood Community Council, which has formed a task force to address the issue.

Gretchen Wehmhoff is the task force spokesperson. She said this week residents aren’t necessarily opposed to development in the area, but have grave concerns about the impact the water line could have.

“The idea is to make sure the transmission line does not impact the people whose property it touches,” she said.

The task force has been meeting to discuss how to fight the issue, and the full council meets Wednesday, Dec. 13, when it will again take up the conversation.

Patrol seeks council support

An Eagle River resident who recently started a one-man community patrol wants the local community council to support his efforts.

After attending several council meetings earlier this year to discuss his desire to start a patrol, Cook was unable to get the council to take action. So last month, he went ahead and started patrolling anyway, purchasing signs for his vehicle with his own money. He’s since done a ridealong with an Anchorage Police Department officer and taken first aid classes in addition to posting updates about his patrols online.

Now he wants the council to back him, and he’s asking for support on social media.

“Intent of attending this meeting in numbers is to convince the board to officially support (not fund) the much needed ER Community Patrol,” Cook wrote in a Dec. 3 Facebook update posted to the Eagle River Crime Watch page.

Community council supported patrols exist both to the immediate north and south of Eagle River, he pointed out.

“I still find it very odd that there is a Community Patrol that comes in from the south and turns back into Anchorage at the Highland [sic] exit and another patrol to our north and goes as far as Freddie’s and then heads back toward Chugiak,” he wrote.

The council has not taken an official position on Cook’s patrol. It meets at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 14 in the Eagle River Town Center building.

Other public meetings of note this month include a Chugiak/Eagle River Parks and Recreation Board of Supervisors meeting Dec. 11 and a Chugiak-Birchwood-Eagle River Rural road Service Area Board of Supervisors meeting Dec. 18. Most community councils will meet this month, although the Chugiak council voted last month to suspend its December meeting unless something urgent arises.

Upcoming public meetings:

Thursday, Dec. 7

South Fork Community Council 7 p.m., Eagle River High School (8701 Yosemite Drive)

Monday, Dec. 11

Eagle River/Chugiak Parks and Recreation Board of Supervisors. 7 p.m., Eagle River Town Center (12001 Business Boulevard)

Wednesday, Dec. 13

Birchwood Community Council. 7 p.m., Beach Lake Chalet (17611 S. Birchwood Loop)

Eagle River Valley Community Council. 7 p.m., Gruening Middle School (9601 Lee Street)

Thursday, Dec. 14

Eagle River Community Council. 7 p.m., Eagle River Town Center community meeting room (12001 Business Boulevard)

Monday, Dec. 18

Chugiak-Birchwood-Eagle River Rural Road Service Area Board of Supervisors. 7 p.m., Eagle River Town Center (12001 Business Boulevard)

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