The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly decided to postpone the introduction of an ordinance that would enable borough code enforcement after discussing the ordinance for more than two hours during a work session on Thursday.
The ordinance, discussed by the assembly during numerous work sessions in recent months, includes a Uniform Table of Minor Offenses, or UMOT. Without it, the borough cannot levy fines for code violations, which include improper trash disposal, abandoning junk vehicles and parking in the borough right-of-way.
“If we’re going to have rules, we need to have enforcement,” said Borough Mayor Bill Roberts, echoing a statement he has repeated whenever the topic of code enforcement has come up.
Originally, the ordinance was scheduled for introduction during the assembly’s Jan. 16 regular meeting. Typically, an ordinance is then scheduled for a public hearing and voted on during the following regular meeting, which would have been Feb. 6. However, some assembly members, including Scott Arndt and Julie Kavanaugh, said that too much was still unclear in the current draft of the ordinance, and that it wasn’t ready to be brought to a vote. They requested the discussion be postponed until after assembly members discuss the ordinance in another work session.
The ordinance development is led by Erin Welty, director of the borough’s Community Development Department, and Sara Fraser, the department’s former director, who now works as a contractor for Thaddeus Professional Services.
Welty urged assembly members to adopt the ordinance sooner rather than later, noting that she fields many calls from residents regarding code enforcement.
“People are frustrated. I have had people threaten that they’re not going to pay their property taxes any more because they’re not getting anything for it,” she said.
Roberts echoed Welty, calling on the assembly to take swift action.
“I believe it’s necessary to get something on the books,” he said. “We can’t drag this thing out forever.”
However, Roberts said the ordinance on the table “doesn’t go far enough” because it would limit the borough’s ability to hand out fines to only some infractions. Following instructions from assembly members, Fraser and Welty limited the UMOT table to only include infractions relating to animal control, waste disposal, junk vehicles and parking in the borough right-of-way, leaving out other contentious issues such as fireworks use and accessory dwelling units.
Assembly members expressed concern over numerous aspects of the ordinance during their discussion on Thursday, which lasted more than two hours. Previous discussions on code enforcement took place during the borough assembly’s work sessions in July, September, October and December.
In September, former mayor Dan Rohrer said the borough has never had the authority to fine residents for code infractions, despite listing fines in the borough code. The only exception is animal control, which is handled through a partnership with the Kodiak City animal control officer.
“The assembly for the last 29 years has adopted a fee schedule every year, and I don’t believe we have ever fined anybody a penny in those 29 years,” Rohrer said during the September meeting.
Since then, residents have testified at borough meetings about the importance of consistent code enforcement, noting in particular that improper trash disposal may have exacerbated the problem of bears entering residential neighborhoods.
By delaying a vote on the ordinance, assembly members also pushed back the hiring of a borough code enforcement officer. The position has been vacant since July, when the previous officer retired and left the island. Borough Manager Michael Powers has said he intends to hold off on filling the code enforcement position until the UMOT process is approved and finalized.
Code enforcement will be discussed again during the assembly’s next work session, scheduled for Jan. 23.