The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly recently kicked a rezone request in Larsen Bay back to the Planning and Zoning Commission because not enough people were notified of the request for the rezone. 

If someone wants to rezone a piece of property in the Kodiak Island Borough, and in almost every other city, county or borough in the country, the neighbors need to know about it. 

Per the borough’s code, how many neighbors receive official notices in the mail depends on the size of the property being rezoned. For example, a plot that’s less than 0.5 acres requires notice be given to property owners with 500 feet. A plot between 0.5 acres and 1 acre requires notices be sent to everyone within 750 feet, and so on. 

The Larsen Bay case involves a 4.4-acre plot. Community Development, which handles zoning matters, sent out notices to the owners of every property within 1,500 feet, precisely how the code describes. That totaled 47 notices. 

But the assembly decided that, since Larsen Bay is so small, every property in the city should receive a notice. 

“Half of the community was in the notice area. The other half wasn’t. … It is a small community, and as we’re seeing, it is contentious,” Assembly Member Scott Arndt said at an assembly meeting on Nov. 5. He then made a motion to send the proposal back to Planning and Zoning and provide additional notice. 

The 4.4-acre plot is currently zoned for conservation. The City of Larsen Bay, which owns the land, submitted a request to do two things. First, it would subdivide the parcel into a 3.3-acre plot and a 1.16-acre plot. 

The larger plot would be zoned residential. The smaller would be zoned for public use. 

If the rezone passes, the city would then swap the larger piece of land with Mike Carlson, a local citizen who owns two adjacent parcels. In exchange for the land, Carlson will give the city land with a heated mechanic’s shop built on it — something the city needs, especially in the winter to keep its fuel truck running. 

The city would donate the smaller parcel to the Larsen Bay Tribal Council. The land contains gravesites that the council would preserve and maintain. 

As Community Development Director Eric Welty and Borough Mayor Bill Roberts stressed, the land swap isn’t really the borough’s business. That’s for the city and local citizens to decide. 

Welty’s department recommended the assembly approve the request on several grounds. First, the 4.4-acre plot is non-conforming as currently zoned. Conservation is supposed to be for plots more than 5 acres, and this one is not. Furthermore, the City of Larsen Bay’s 1984 Comprehensive Plan states that the future use of the parcel is residential. The rezone fixes that. 

Second, graves are not intended to be on land zoned for conservation. Public use, which the plot containing the graves would become, is the only permitted area for gravesites. 

As Welty wrote in her assessment, the rezone would “preserve and respect the cultural history of Larsen Bay by allowing the maintenance of existing gravesites and allowing additional gravesites to be placed there.”

A number of people from Larsen Bay support the move. Mayor Bill Nelson and Carlson, of course, wrote that they supported the request. So did Richard Henson, the president of the Native Village of Larsen Bay Tribal Council, and Marilyn Henson, who also sits on the council. 

Twenty-four people, including Carlson, Nelson, and both Hensons, signed a petition expressing support for the rezone.  

But not everyone agreed. Randy Blondin, who has spoken at several meetings against the rezone as it’s bounced its way through the process, said he wasn’t sure that enough people understood exactly what’s going on. 

He was out fishing this summer, didn’t hear about the rezoning until late in the process, and thinks a number of his neighbors feel the same. 

“It didn’t get out to enough people, so I think there’s a big flaw in the system for how word got out,” Blondin said at the assembly’s Oct. 15 meeting. 

He had similar complaints at the Nov. 5 meeting, when the assembly voted on what to do about the rezone. 

Arndt seemed to agree, and made the motion to essentially start the process over, but with everyone in the village getting notified. Others on the assembly did too. 

“The time we’re in, between COVID, between the election stuff, if some of these notices got overlooked, that would make complete sense to me,” Assembly Member Rebecca Skinner said. 

“And I don’t think that giving it additional time to be worked on and get more feedback from the community is a bad thing.”  

Assembly Members Andy Schroeder, Dennis Symmons, Skinner and Arndt voted to send the rezone back to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Members Duane Dvorak, Julie Kavanaugh and James Turner voted no. 

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