Those in favor of creating a separate chapter for Chugiak-Eagle River to Title 21, which regulates municipal land use, had reason to celebrate Monday night.
The Anchorage Planning and Zoning Commission passed a motion requiring Chapter 21.10 be on the same level of review as the provisionally adopted chapters of the Title 21 rewrite by its Oct. 3 meeting. A round of applause followed the unanimous decision by the nearly 30 in attendance at Gruening Middle School.
"I don't think we could have had a better result," said Randy McCain, president of the Consortium of Chugiak-Eagle River Community Councils. "I'm very happy."
Passage of the motion means that by Oct. 3, the Planning Department staff must complete a review of the chapter and supply analysis to Planning and Zoning. Commissioner Nancy Pease requested this be done in an amendment to the main motion made by Vice Chair Connie Yoshimura.
"I'm concerned about how staff will interrupt it and enforce it," Pease said. "We need to know how staff is gonna read it. It needs to catch up through that method."
The consortium, which was created by the Birchwood, Chugiak, Eagle River, Eagle River Valley, Eklutna Valley and South Fork Community Councils, submitted the chapter to the Anchorage Assembly, and it was introduced March 8. The absence of staff recommendations was noted by the consortium.
"(The Planning Department) has had this document since March, and yet in your packet, there are not department comments," consortium consultant Dan Bolles told the Commission.
Five months is plenty of time to review the chapter, he said.
Staff recommendations haven't been made on Chapter 10 because Planning Department resources have been devoted to finalizing the Title 21 rewrite, said Tom Davis, senior planner with the municipality.
"Our agency and other agencies have been redirected to focus on the proposed changes" to the Title 21 rewrite, Davis said.
Davis said work on the Chugiak-Eagle River chapter is ongoing.
"At this stage, staff is still reviewing and identifying issues," he said. "We have not received comments from all agencies yet."
In the past, there has been political resistance to forming a separate Chugiak-Eagle River chapter, Yoshimura said. But based on public testimony given at the hearing, the chapter is needed, she said.
"There has been perhaps a little bit of foot dragging in this administration and prior administrations to whether or not Chugiak-Eagle River should have its own chapter," Yoshimura said. "What we heard tonight is Chugiak-Eagle River needs its own chapter."
Despite not agreeing with everything in the consortium's draft of Chapter 10, Yoshimura said Chugiak-Eagle River should be treated equally and follow the same path as the Title 21 rewrite.
"That is really the underlying issue we are hearing tonight," she said.
Every member of the public that spoke did so in favor of the chapter citing the preservation of Chugiak-Eagle River's rural, large lot lifestyle as paramount to residents.
"We are not Anchorage. We did move out here for a reason," said Jill Flanders Crosby. "Absolutely we need to do this."
Regulations that will make the area different from Anchorage are needed, Andrew Brewer said.
"We need to have a set of regulations that will enable the municipality to effectively control what developers can do out here," he said. "We need to require these amenities or the communities are going to suffer."
"It's very useful and important to designate the difference in our community," Patty Friend added.
A large majority of Chugiak-Eagle River residents are in favor of the chapter, McCain told the Commission. He estimated between 70 and 80 percent of the community supports Chapter 10. Consensus has been reached on 85 percent of the document, McCain added.
The community wants Title 21 to remain in its current form, McCain said, not the provisionally adopted Title 21.
"We've listened long and hard from the community. What we hear from the community is, 'We like it the way it is,'" McCain said. "Basically, it's an attempt by the community to maintain and preserve our lifestyle."
This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, August 10, 2011.