Eagle River council hears argument against high-density housing

Monday, January 16, 2017 - 16:06
Council takes no action, but recommends further discussion
  • Members of the Eagle River Community Council and the public look over the meeting agenda before the council's Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 meeting at the Eagle River Town Center building.

Chugiak residents hoping to slow a high-density housing project visited the Eagle River Community Council last week in hopes of persuading them to join their battle against the proposal.

“Our concern is the pressure not only on that end of town but also on the intersections,” said Darryl Parks, who attended the meeting at the Eagle River Town Center building with his wife, Gina.

The Parkses live outside the Eagle River CC boundary, but were seeking a resolution from the council in opposition to a plan by the Heritage Land Bank to modify the area’s land use plan.

The HLB is in the process of seeking a revision to the 2010 land use plan for the area and wants the Municipality of Anchorage to allow for higher density housing and the construction of a new water reservoir. The HLB originally hoped to ask for more than 500 units on the property, but the HLB board later revised that number down to 359 after strong opposition from the Chugiak Community Council.

At the Jan. 12 meeting, the couple asked the Eagle River CC to endorse a resolution passed by the Birchwood, Chugiak and Eagle River Valley councils opposing the plan. Gina Parks said both the plan itself and the process have been flawed.

“Is this the right look for Eagle River?” she asked.

However, Eagle River council members were uneasy with that idea of passing a resolution against the development, especially since the group didn’t have all the information and hadn’t even put the issue on its agenda.

“We haven’t even taken any informal action on it,” said council member Brian Fay.

The council members thanked the couple for pushing the issue. Fay said that even though the parcel in question is technically in the Chugiak council’s area, the proposed development could impact everyone in Chugiak-Eagle River.

“That line runs right up to our boundary,” he pointed out.

The council decided not to take any action on the proposal. Instead, council president Michael Foster said he’ll be contacting members of the Chapter 10 Land Use Advisory Board, which is tasked with advising the Planning and Zoning Commission (which has yet to take up the issue) on land use under the municipality’s Title 21 land use rules. Those rules were re-written in 2010 and affirmed Chugiak should retain its rural characteristics.

Foster said he thinks a meeting of the advisory board is warranted in the case of the Carol Creek development, which clearly has the attention of local residents. The advisory board, he pointed out, has much more sway than the community councils themselves because its recommendations must be taken into account.

“PNZ has to listen to that voice,” he said.

On Monday, Randy McCain, who sits on the advisory board, said he had not heard of a meeting being scheduled yet. If one is called, it will be announced in local newspapers and online, Foster said.

Although the council took no action on the issue, Fay said he believes the way the HLB has pushed through the development has been outside the spirit of the land use rules.

“It certainly is a degrading of the process we went through in 2010,” Fay said.

Council members, however, said the idea of more affordable housing in the area isn’t something that should be rejected out of hand.

“At some point we are going to have a more eclectic community,” said council member Tim Ebben.

Fay, too, said he’s unsure about the issue and wants more time to discuss the Carol Creek development. Service industry workers in Eagle River need affordable housing, he pointed out, as do others living in the community.

“We do need to have housing for those folks,” he said.

After the discussion, Foster thanked the Mr. and Mrs. Parks for attending the meeting — even if it’s outside the couple’s council boundaries — because their participation helped move the discussion forward.

“This is what it’s all about,” Foster said.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call (907) 205-0082.

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