This past Thursday’s borough assembly meeting was interesting in and of itself. However, its real value may be in being a precursor to debate at this upcoming Thursday’s regular meeting where two subjects of importance to the community are scheduled to be discussed: the Otmeloi Way paving project and the public hearing on rezoning all of Kodiak to allow small lots of 8/100 acres to be allowed virtually anywhere in Kodiak, which one assembly member characterized as potentially the greatest facelift to Kodiak in our lifetime.
According to the Alaska State DOT&PH, the latest cost estimate for the Otmeloi project is $6.7 million. Whereas this will be at no cost to Kodiak, upon completion of the project, maintenance and upkeep of this road will be at the expense of only Service District 1. And the borough assembly has deliberately and repeatedly declined to provide a cost estimate for such maintenance … likely for obvious reasons. One can only wonder if the borough itself were going to pay, how interested they would be in pursuing the project.
Also, at last Thursday’s meeting, representatives from the road district, borough engineering and a civil engineer (me) recommended against accepting DOT’s proposed design for the roadway as, in its present form, it is a substandard design – this opinion based upon collective local experience. In his comments, Dr. LeDoux observed that were to borough to accept such a design, likely this would result in years of grief for our community.
At the end of over an hour of discussion on the subject, it appeared that the assembly was convinced that the present DOT proposal clearly is unsatisfactory. However, how to go forward is unclear – as some elements of this project are essential (i.e., paving Otmeloi from Rezanof to North Star Elementary and providing a safe walkway), while other elements might be nice to have but not essential. Nobody wants to drop the project, but in its present form, it is unacceptable. Thursday’s meeting should provide discussion and further direction.
Another noteworthy discussion taking place at the work session was the advancing to public hearing of a proposed small lot ordinance, which could reduce minimum lot sizes across Kodiak to 518,000 square inches. The downside of this would be an adverse impact on residential neighborhoods here in Kodiak (which was acknowledged by assembly members) along with any costs necessary to upgrade Kodiak utilities to serve additional residents – which costs would be borne by the entire community. Conversely, the upside to such an ordinance would be increased revenue to the borough through higher property taxes for that parcel of land. In evaluating these competing interests, this assembly regularly has come down on the side of garnering as much revenue (property taxes) from every inch of land available to them to tax regardless of its adverse consequences. We’ll see if this pattern holds true at Thursday’s meeting.
When looked at collectively, one seemingly could make a coherent case of the assembly seeking to create a new, “affordable” Kodiak consisting of less expensive, high-density housing at the expense of destroying established neighborhoods. (1) Consider the Otmeloi paving project vote, which added 30 or so acres of former public land now being included within the boundaries of Service District 1. Obviously, trees and wildlife in this area do not need support from a service district. However, construction of new houses, roads and utilities do. As well as (you guessed it) a new, paved Otmeloi Road to support this new construction. (2) Then there is the matter of the assembly, without inquiring from its constituency, supporting elimination or modification of the existing senior exemption at last month’s Alaska Municipal League meeting: a fairly clear message from the assembly to Kodiak seniors – either pay up or move along. (3) The recently passed accessory dwelling unit ordinance changes and now the latest corrosive assault to neighborhood continuity and community coherence via this upcoming, proposed small residential lot legislation.
I seriously question this current assembly’s vision and pattern of legislation to upgrade (or downgrade?) our Kodiak community to make it more affordable but less desirable to live in. Obviously, this is an opinion and not necessarily fact. But KMXT will air Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. meeting live, and residents will be able to call in and express their own opinion. And this meeting just might be one to either attend or listen to.
All of which, of course, is just my opinion.
Jeffrey T. Stewart