Thank you, Citizens Advisory Committee, Title 21 Rewrite Boards and Commission, the Real Estate Task Force and thousands of Anchorage citizens for voicing your opinions and helping rewrite the city's land use plan. You were the large-scale community effort to review and revise Title 21 that was provisionally adopted last year.
Now the Provisionally Adopted Title 21, along with a list of proposed amendments from a consultant, sits with the Planning and Zoning Commission, or PZC.
The commission's nine members are recommending additional changes based on what they think is best for Anchorage. Their recommendations merit your scrutiny.
Why? Because Anchorage homeowners will live with these planning and zoning decisions for decades.
Of course we need to plan for higher density development in the future as Anchorage grows. We can't be against development. But higher densities must allow for pedestrian movement and public safety.
You only need to drive around Anchorage to see some of the health and safety concerns that were addressed in the Provisionally Adopted Title 21. However, these community concerns don't seem to have survived as concerns in the current PZC recommendations.
For example, the PZC recommendations do not address the following:
1. Inadequate inter- connections between schools, parks and neighborhoods.
2. Partial or non-handicap compliant sidewalks that force pedestrians dangerously close to or into streets.
3. Bicycle lanes that force riders to share the road with cars. (The Seward Highway at 36th is an example of a dangerous spot for pedestrians and bikers alike.)
4. Subdivisions with only one entrance and exit.
5. High-density developments with:
A. Barely enough parking for homeowners, and
B. No space for kids to play, which forces children into neighboring subdivisions away from home.
6. Safety concerns created by:
A. Blank walls facing public streets; and
B. Home entrances not visible from the street.
7. Usable space dominated by pavement, without landscaping between driveway and garage.
8. Commercial areas abutting residential areas without adequate buffers and transitions.
9. Multi-story commercial buildings blocking sunlight from multi-family residences.
These are some of the issues that will affect where and how we live. The Provisionally Adopted Titled 21 also tried to correct other problems affecting commercial uses, and to protect our greatest asset: our natural resources.
No matter what side of this issue you're on, or what perspective you take, everyone agrees that Anchorage must evolve to meet the evolving needs of our community. We can choose how our city will look in the future. Planning for eventual population and employment growth necessitates a comprehensive, long-term view for higher density and vertical development, while maintaining the health and welfare of residents.
The duties of the planning and zoning commission are primarily to review and recommend. Ultimately, the Assembly will have the final word.
The PZC and the Assembly need to hear the community's reaction to the direction the planning and zoning commission's rewrites of Title 21 are taking.
For an overview of the Title 21 Rewrite Project, go to muni.org. The Power Point presentation is the first link. Look at it to see examples of what the community was striving for with the Provisionally Adopted Title 21.
For specifics of rewrite changes, look down the page to the section titled "PZC's Review of all Provisionally Adopted Chapters," and see the third paragraph for chapter amendments. The PZC changes lack the easy-to-follow "Tracked Changes" used in the consultant's recommendations farther down the page.
At some point, we expect to see posted a memorandum analyzing the PZC recommendations from the Municipal Community Development Department Planning Division. This will be an interesting memo.
Go to the "Upcoming Events" link on the right side of the page for dates of public hearings and committee meetings about Title 21. The next meeting for the Assembly Title 21 Committee is from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., July 19, at 4700 Elmore, Room 107.
Whatever version of Title 21 is finally approved, we feel it should at least do the following for residential property:
• Protect the value of your home and investment,
• Improve the quality of life in neighborhoods,
• Protect the safety of the community, and
• Make the most effective use of tax dollars.
But will it? Will future generations be able to thank us for making Anchorage into the city we thought it could be?
Clair and Barbara Ramsey are local associate brokers specializing in residential real estate. Their column appears every month in the Anchorage Daily News. Their e-mail address is email@example.com.