In its meeting Wednesday night, the planning commission voted 4-0 to recommend the assembly not approve a road across public land requested by A-1 Timber.
The logging company is fulfilling a four-year, $15 million contract with Leisnoi Inc. to remove 100 million board feet of timber from the Chiniak area. Commissioner Jay Baldwin, a Leisnoi board member, recused himself from the vote.
On Wednesday night, 15 area landowners testified that the road would disrupt a quiet neighborhood and ruin a recreational beach.
“The proposed road, if it’s completed, will enter and exit right at Silver Beach, one of the most popular recreation places on the road system,” testified Bob Papp. “I’ve looked at this proposal, and I don’t know the reason for this road.”
The reason for the road, explained A-1 resource manager David Nesheim, is to avoid having to do work on a bridge that crosses a salmon stream.
“It’s an old bridge and it’ll likely have to be replaced,” he said.
He said the idea is to avoid affecting those streams, valued by fishermen and people who live nearby.
Several Chiniak residents seized on those comments, asking how A-1 can expect to manage timber responsibly if it doesn’t have the confidence to build a bridge cleanly.
Those arguments clearly swayed the planning and zoning commission.
“The spot it’s coming out is the worst spot you could possibly pick on the Chiniak Highway. I appreciate the logging company trying to do an effective bottom line, but I won’t be supporting this,” commissioner Brent Watkins said.
After the unanimous vote against the project, commissioners drafted a resolution advising the borough assembly to not approve the logging road. The assembly has the final say on the project.
In the other major item of the night, the planning and zoning commission voted 5-0 to approve a borough ordinance permitting the construction of high-tunnel greenhouses, also called hoophouses, regardless of zoning. Under existing borough code, high tunnels must follow various regulations on lot coverage and building height, limiting their acceptance among otherwise willing gardeners.
The ordinance has been nurtured by gardeners for most of 2011, and several testified Wednesday that it will allow more people to grow more fresh produce on Kodiak Island.
“It can mean a lot to addressing the issues of obesity and health that are present in our communities,” said Marion Owen, who writes a weekly garden column for the Daily Mirror.
Commissioner Bill Kersch expressed concerns that a one-foot setback called for within the ordinance could lead to conflicts between neighbors if drainage becomes an issue.
“You put this one-foot setback next to an Aleutian Home, and you’re going to have one ticked-off neighbor,” he said, referring to a dense residential subdivision in central Kodiak.
To address those concerns, commissioner Alan Torres proposed an amendment calling for a review of the high-tunnel ordinance once every two years. The amendment was approved unanimously, and the commission approved the ordinance shortly afterward.
“I just want to say thank you for your hard work,” Owen said after the passage. “Next summer, when I have tomatoes, I’ll definitely distribute them.”
The ordinance next goes to the borough assembly, where it is expected to pass.
The planning and zoning commission’s next regular meeting is Jan. 18.
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at email@example.com.