Smaller lots

Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Scott Arndt, right, answers questions from the assembly on the RSL zoning district ordinance at Thursday’s regular meeting.

The borough now has a new zoning district that will allow smaller lot sizes. 

The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly on Thursday approved an ordinance creating a new zoning district called RSL – Residential Small Lot Single Family. The new zoning district allows areas of land that are 1.5 acres or larger with access to public water and sewer services to be subdivided into a minimum of 10 lots for single family housing.

RSL subdivision lots must be 3,600 to 6,000 square feet, excluding water bodies, private roads and public access easements. 

Previously, the smallest allowable lot size was 7,200 square feet, which is the minimum in R1, R2 and R3 districts. 

According to meeting documents, the ordinance is meant to create affordable housing opportunities and encourage construction of smaller homes. 

Some assembly members had previously indicated they could attempt to lessen the minimum property size requirement or minimum lot size requirement. However, the ordinance passed without amendments.

“The small lot subdivision has really been forcing a lot of introspection, because I hear the desire of people who purchased homes in distinct neighborhoods and they want to maintain the character and nature of their neighborhoods, but also we’ve got to start thinking of more creative and flexible ways of developing areas to permit future neighborhoods,” said assembly member Matthew Van Daele. “After a lot of consideration, I’m not going to be offering any amendments tonight on the small lot subdivisions.”

Assembly member Kyle Crow praised the ordinance as a possible way to bring down housing costs in Kodiak. 

“Here’s a solution, one of many that we can come up with and provide some additional options for housing. I support it,” Crow said. “I kind of have a little bit of a problem with creating beehives of small lots, but then again when I really think about it more I think … we just need as many options as possible. I believe that small lots and small houses, or small lots and houses that are code compliant that fit within as much as the lot can handle, should be allowed anywhere where they’ll fit.”

Crow made a motion to remove both the minimum property size and the minimum number of lots, but it failed to get a second from another assembly member and was killed.

Lots rezoned to RSL would have to go through the normal rezone process, with approval by both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the assembly after public hearings. 

“There aren’t standards and stipulations codified in the same way that there are for variances and conditional use permits, but in every staff report for rezones or future land use designation changes, staff looks at the same things, which include compatibility with the comprehensive plan, recent development trends in the area, proposed development trends in the area, traffic impacts, environmental impacts, neighborhood character,” said Sara Mason, director of the borough Community Development Department, when asked about the process by assembly member Rebecca Skinner.

Developers could apply for variances to the minimum property size and number of lots, Mason said. 

That process involves at least one public hearing, Mason said. 

Ultimately, the ordinance passed 5-1, with assembly member Scott Smiley casting the only dissenting vote. Assembly member Larry LeDoux was absent.

“The problem that I have with that is that neighbors that are concerned that the character of their neighborhood is going to potentially change with a move to RSL in their local environment, wouldn’t know what things were specific to whether it would be approved or not. They have no way of organizing their campaign, as it were,” Smiley said.

Van Daele advocated for having the assembly take a look at the borough’s processes for granting variances and conditional use permits rather than trying to make the RSL ordinance perfect.

“If we focused our efforts there, then we’d have a broader, more positive impact across all of the zones instead of trying to make this one zone perfect right out of the gate,” he said.

The assembly also advanced to second reading and public hearing two ordinances that would potentially clear the way for a business on the lot at the corner of Bancroft Drive and Mill Bay Road.

One ordinance would change the lot’s future land use designation from Residential to Business and the other would rezone the property from R1 – Single Family Residential to B - Business. 

“The property appears to be better suited for business-commercial development. The property is adjacent to properties zoned B-Business. This rezone would adjust that B-Business zoning district boundary to include this parcel,” wrote the property owner on his rezone application.

Some of the property’s neighbors have submitted written testimony opposing the changes. 

“P&Z’s reaction was mixed. It was a 5-2 vote,” Mason said. “There were several concerns I think that the neighborhood had that were valid, but that weren’t necessarily related specifically to the rezone of the property.”

One of the concerns related to accumulation of junk on an adjacent property not owned by the applicant. There were also concerns about the property owner’s disposal of junk on his own property. 

Assembly members voted unanimously to forward the ordinances to public hearing at the next assembly regular meeting.

“It certainly looks like it’s well-suited for a business lot and I think having a business in there is actually going to help to clean up the adjacent lots. 

This neighborhood is already a mixed business/residential neighborhood, so I don’t really see it changing the neighborhood in any way, other than in a positive way,” said assembly member Dave Townsend.

In other business, the assembly approved an ordinance making minor adjustments in the language and placement within code of sections of the recently approved tax on tobacco products, appointed Dave Davis and Mary Jane Pediangco to the Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center Community Advisory Board, approved municipal election workers, appointed Levi Fehrs as the business representative to the borough’s Solid Waste Advisory Board and approved a letter to the Alaska Board of Fisheries regarding an agenda change request that, if approved, would allow the board to review and potentially lessen Kodiak Management Area salmon caps outside of the regular cycle. 

 

Snoderly can be reached at (907) 512-2624. Follow her on Twitter, @KDMjoann

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