Larsen Bay

Photo courtesy of Discover Kodiak

Larsen Bay, located 60 miles southeast of the city of Kodiak, has a population of 87 residents and is accessible only by boat or plane.

Months after it first applied, the city of Larsen Bay will finally get to rezone a piece of property at the edge of town after the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly voted narrowly to approve the move at last week’s meeting. 

But it almost got pushed back again after several assembly members tried to alter the rezone during the meeting. The whole process ended up being immensely complicated, and raised questions about what exactly the borough’s role was in decisions like these. 

Larsen Bay applied for the rezone in October. The city wanted to subdivide a 4.4-acre plot currently zoned for conservation into two chunks: one that would be zoned for public-use land and the other to be zoned for residential use. 

There were three reasons the city wanted to do this. First, conservation-zoned plots are supposed to 5 acres or larger, making the current zoning non-conforming.

Second, part of the plot contains graves from Larsen Bay’s ancestors. Graves aren’t supposed to be on land zoned conservation, but they are allowed on public-use land. The part that would be zoned for public use would house the graves. 

Third, the city wants to swap the residential land with local lodge owner Mike Carlson, who owns an adjacent property. In exchange, Carlson will give the city a parcel he owns that has a heated garage. The city needs a heated garage to hold its fuel trucks in the wintertime. 

However, the land swap side of all of it wasn’t part of the rezone request, and it’s not clear when that might happen. 

“None of those deals are done. Nothing is solid. This is a rezone request they are making, as the property owner and any future use of the land will be determined once they know the results of the rezone and the subdivision,” Community Development Director Erin Welty said at the Thursday meeting. 

The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the rezone in October. When it first appeared before the assembly in November, the group decided that not enough people in Larsen Bay had been notified of the proposal. Per borough rules, only those who lived within 1,500 feet of the parcel in question got notices. 

Given that some people in Larsen Bay had expressed opposition to the rezone, assembly members thought everyone who owned land in the city should get notified. 

“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.

So the borough voted to kick the rezone back to the Planning and Zoning Commission and sent out 95 notices to everyone in town. 

In December, the commission again unanimously approved the rezone. Thirty-one comments came back in support of the rezone, though a few were from people who owned multiple parcels. Seven others were negative, and one came back undeliverable. 

That brought the rezone back to the assembly a second time last week. 

There was little discussion of the rezone on Tuesday’s work session, when assembly members talk about the issues before them but don’t vote on them. 

On Thursday, when the assembly held a vote on the matter, Arndt made a motion to amend the request, changing the residential portion to business zoning. 

He said he didn’t want to put residential zoning next to the airport, which is where the parcel in question sits. 

“The property owner can request something. And a lot of times we know that in the communities, they’re not really sure what to do. And I can’t tell you what that discussion with staff was to begin with,” Arndt said later in the meeting as the group discussed the idea of changing the rezone request to something other than what the applicant wanted. 

“But when I look at an airport, you don’t put residential adjacent to the airport. Cut and dry. It creates nothing but problems.”

Arndt said that he had talked with Carlson, who might eventually get the land, and said that he was okay with it. He said he hadn’t discussed the matter with the city of Larsen Bay. 

Assembly Member Duane Dvorak said the group did not necessarily have to follow what the applicant had requested. He said he felt that business would be more appropriate for the plot. 

“We have the authority to make the decision and we’re not obliged to follow the recommendation of the assembly, nor are we obliged to follow what people request,” he said. 

“In my estimation, the context is more simpatico with the business zone than with the single-family residential. But that’s my opinion.” 

Others disagreed. 

“I don’t think this is appropriate. There were lots and lots of opportunities to influence this at the Planning and Zoning level and throughout the whole process,” Assembly Member Julie Kavanaugh said. 

When it came time for a vote, Arndt’s motion to alter the request passed 4-2, with Arndt, Dvorak, James Turner and Aimee Williams in favor. Kavanaugh and Geoff Smith voted against it. 

Then, a motion was made to postpone the final vote until February so everyone in Larsen Bay could be re-notified that the zoning had been changed from residential to business. 

Mayor Bill Roberts, who doesn’t vote unless there’s a tie, expressed his frustration with the process. 

“I’m disappointed because this has been before us so many times. This should have been brought up earlier because we could have gotten input from the owner,” he said. 

“It’s kind of disappointing to the citizens of Kodiak. I don’t know how many months they spent on this already, only to have the borough change the plans on them.” 

But then, Williams seemed to have a change of heart. 

“I said yes to the business because I felt like it would be easy for us to go ask the city if that were their intentions,” she said. 

“But I don’t want to pass this if that’s not actually what the city asked for and that’s not going to be business land in the future.” 

She joined Smith and Kavanaugh to vote against the motion to postpone the final vote until February. That generated a tie, which Roberts broke against the motion to delay.  

After that, Williams made a motion to reconsider the vote on the just-passed motion that changed the residential to business zoning. Again, Roberts broke the tie, this time striking down the amendment. 

That brought the assembly back to the original motion, which again passed with Roberts breaking the tie. 

“Wow, that was a lot of parliamentary fun, wasn’t it?” Roberts said after the last vote.

By ANDREW KENNESON 

Months after it first applied, the city of Larsen Bay will finally get to rezone a piece of property at the edge of town after the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly voted narrowly to approve the move at last week’s meeting. 

But it almost got pushed back again after several assembly members tried to alter the rezone during the meeting. The whole process ended up being immensely complicated, and raised questions about what exactly the borough’s role was in decisions like these. 

Larsen Bay applied for the rezone in October. The city wanted to subdivide a 4.4-acre plot currently zoned for conservation into two chunks: one that would be zoned for public-use land and the other to be zoned for residential use. 

There were three reasons the city wanted to do this. First, conservation-zoned plots are supposed to 5 acres or larger, making the current zoning non-conforming.

Second, part of the plot contains graves from Larsen Bay’s ancestors. Graves aren’t supposed to be on land zoned conservation, but they are allowed on public-use land. The part that would be zoned for public use would house the graves. 

Third, the city wants to swap the residential land with local lodge owner Mike Carlson, who owns an adjacent property. In exchange, Carlson will give the city a parcel he owns that has a heated garage. The city needs a heated garage to hold its fuel trucks in the wintertime. 

However, the land swap side of all of it wasn’t part of the rezone request, and it’s not clear when that might happen. 

“None of those deals are done. Nothing is solid. This is a rezone request they are making, as the property owner and any future use of the land will be determined once they know the results of the rezone and the subdivision,” Community Development Director Erin Welty said at the Thursday meeting. 

The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the rezone in October. When it first appeared before the assembly in November, the group decided that not enough people in Larsen Bay had been notified of the proposal. Per borough rules, only those who lived within 1,500 feet of the parcel in question got notices. 

Given that some people in Larsen Bay had expressed opposition to the rezone, assembly members thought everyone who owned land in the city should get notified. 

“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.

So the borough voted to kick the rezone back to the Planning and Zoning Commission and sent out 95 notices to everyone in town. 

In December, the commission again unanimously approved the rezone. Thirty-one comments came back in support of the rezone, though a few were from people who owned multiple parcels. Seven others were negative, and one came back undeliverable. 

That brought the rezone back to the assembly a second time last week. 

There was little discussion of the rezone on Tuesday’s work session, when assembly members talk about the issues before them but don’t vote on them. 

On Thursday, when the assembly held a vote on the matter, Arndt made a motion to amend the request, changing the residential portion to business zoning. 

He said he didn’t want to put residential zoning next to the airport, which is where the parcel in question sits. 

“The property owner can request something. And a lot of times we know that in the communities, they’re not really sure what to do. And I can’t tell you what that discussion with staff was to begin with,” Arndt said later in the meeting as the group discussed the idea of changing the rezone request to something other than what the applicant wanted. 

“But when I look at an airport, you don’t put residential adjacent to the airport. Cut and dry. It creates nothing but problems.”

Arndt said that he had talked with Carlson, who might eventually get the land, and said that he was okay with it. He said he hadn’t discussed the matter with the city of Larsen Bay. 

Assembly Member Duane Dvorak said the group did not necessarily have to follow what the applicant had requested. He said he felt that business would be more appropriate for the plot. 

“We have the authority to make the decision and we’re not obliged to follow the recommendation of the assembly, nor are we obliged to follow what people request,” he said. 

“In my estimation, the context is more simpatico with the business zone than with the single-family residential. But that’s my opinion.” 

Others disagreed. 

“I don’t think this is appropriate. There were lots and lots of opportunities to influence this at the Planning and Zoning level and throughout the whole process,” Assembly Member Julie Kavanaugh said. 

When it came time for a vote, Arndt’s motion to alter the request passed 4-2, with Arndt, Dvorak, James Turner and Aimee Williams in favor. Kavanaugh and Geoff Smith voted against it. 

Then, a motion was made to postpone the final vote until February so everyone in Larsen Bay could be re-notified that the zoning had been changed from residential to business. 

Mayor Bill Roberts, who doesn’t vote unless there’s a tie, expressed his frustration with the process. 

“I’m disappointed because this has been before us so many times. This should have been brought up earlier because we could have gotten input from the owner,” he said. 

“It’s kind of disappointing to the citizens of Kodiak. I don’t know how many months they spent on this already, only to have the borough change the plans on them.” 

But then, Williams seemed to have a change of heart. 

“I said yes to the business because I felt like it would be easy for us to go ask the city if that were their intentions,” she said. 

“But I don’t want to pass this if that’s not actually what the city asked for and that’s not going to be business land in the future.” 

She joined Smith and Kavanaugh to vote against the motion to postpone the final vote until February. That generated a tie, which Roberts broke against the motion to delay.  

After that, Williams made a motion to reconsider the vote on the just-passed motion that changed the residential to business zoning. Again, Roberts broke the tie, this time striking down the amendment. 

That brought the assembly back to the original motion, which again passed with Roberts breaking the tie. 

“Wow, that was a lot of parliamentary fun, wasn’t it?” Roberts said after the last vote.

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