Kodiak Daily Mirror - Kodiak borough assembly approves hoophouses and trail plan nixes Chiniak logging road
Kodiak borough assembly approves hoophouses and trail plan, nixes Chiniak logging road
by James Brooks / editor@kodiakdailymirror.com
Jan 20, 2012 | 253 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KODIAK — The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly finished off a wave of long-awaited legislation Thursday evening, approving an ordinance that allows the construction of hoophouses, turning down a new logging road in Chiniak and approving the final version of a borough road system trails plan.

All three items received a comparatively large amount of public interest, with dozens of comments on each topic.

The trails plan was the first item on the assembly’s agenda, and the unanimous approval marked the end of a 10-year process for the borough’s parks and recreation committee, said borough community development director Bud Cassidy.

“I want you to know it really has been a citizen-driven project,” he said. “It’s the kind of thing you want to see your advisory boards do.”

The plan officially marks trails across the road system, which allows the parks and recreation committee or other organizations to pursue grants or other funding to improve them.

“We’ve identified trails, we’ve identified needs; having the ability to put these sorts of things in a grant application is a powerful tool,” said Mike Sirofchuk, a former parks and recreation committee member.

Several current and former members of the parks committee spoke in favor of the plan, as did members of the assembly. The only down note came from assembly member Mel Stephens, who said he’s glad the project is done, but wishes it hadn’t cost so much.

“I think the preparation of this plan was ... expensive,” he said. “I frankly would have been much more satisfied with this if the consultant had been somebody local.”

The other major project receiving assembly approval was an ordinance rewriting borough building codes to allow the construction of high-tunnel greenhouses, commonly called hoophouses.

Gardeners have strongly advocated the construction of these structures, which are made of plastic sheeting and retain heat, allowing an extended growing season. Advocates say the extension can make agriculture commercially viable on Kodiak Island, where imported food prices are high.

“Kodiak is a cool place, and there are people around the state of Alaska watching and listening to what happens tonight because of what’s happening here,” said Marion Owen, the Daily Mirror’s gardening columnist, speaking in favor of the move. “In the 15 years I’ve been writing my gardening column, I’ve never seen such enthusiasm over a gardening topic.”

As with the trails plan, supporters lined up for a chance to speak before the assembly.

“This is a simple, beautiful design that produces lots of results; so go hoophouses,” said Heather Johnson.

“With the momentum of this, I think we will be able to see some wonderful things happening,” said Marie Rice.

The ordinance, which the assembly passed unanimously, allows only high-tunnel kits certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The kits may be eligible for a federal subsidy and have sprouted across the Kodiak archipelago in the past handful of years. The growth led to the push for their regulation under borough building codes.

A proposed logging road across borough land in Chiniak met much less support from the borough assembly. In a unanimous vote, the assembly turned down a request from A-1 Timber, which requested permission to build the road.

The vote followed the recommendation of the borough’s planning and zoning commission, which heard lengthy testimony from Chiniak residents opposed to the 800-foot-long road.

Five hundred feet of the road would have crossed state land, and 300 feet would have crossed borough property.

Several members of the assembly said the availability of an alternative route made their choice easier.

“If this was restricting Leisnoi from getting to the land and they had no other options, I would probably vote no,” assembly member Jerrol Friend said. Leisnoi owns the land being logged by A-1 Timber.

The concerns of Chiniak residents, several of whom participated in the meeting telephonically, also factored into the borough’s decision.

“I can see this having a dramatic effect even if it’s just a temporary road,” Friend said of the impact on Chiniak.

In other business, the borough assembly:

• named Martha Barnett the borough employee of the quarter for the fourth quarter of 2011;

• recognized Meagan Christiansen for 15 years of service to the borough;

• proclaimed January stalking awareness month;

• approved a $1,000 contribution to the Alaska Sea Party, backers of a petition to restore an Alaska Coastal Zone Management program. Assembly member Mel Stephens cast the sole vote against the contribution, citing concerns about spending public money for political advocacy;

• appointed Scott Bonney and Greg Hacker to the joint city-borough building code review committee;

• changed rules so the school board representative to the borough parks and recreation committee will be a staff member rather than a school board member;

• approved a liquor license transfer request for Tony’s Bar. Patricia Altmeter now controls 66 percent of the business, with George Gatter holding the remaining 33 percent;

• approved a resolution establishing fund balance and prioritization policies, which are required by government accounting standards.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.
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