Compass: Title 21 process has been above board and fair

By DAN COFFEYFebruary 13, 2013 

I am writing in response to John Blaine's and Cheryl Richardson's Compass pieces (Blaine, Jan. 14; Richardson, Feb. 11). The proposed new Title 21, is clearly an issue of great community concern. An honest, open and comprehensive discussion on the substantive land use issues is important. Without such a presentation, the pieces are nothing more than a complaint about the results of a very lengthy and public process.

I have worked on the land use code almost continuously since my service on the Planning and Zoning Commission starting in 2003 and continuing while I was on the Assembly through 2010. I have been a land use attorney for nearly four decades. I have substantial knowledge of the land use code and the effects of the code on our City and our citizens.

Based on my knowledge and experience, I was asked by Mayor Sullivan to make recommendations to him on possible amendments to the draft land use code. I spent more than a year meeting with interested citizens of all stripes and opinions, including Cheryl Richardson, from the Anchorage Citizens' Coalition (ACC). Despite my open invitation to her to continue a discussion of the issues (an invitation made to all with whom I met), she never returned. I was later told that ACC did not "like the process." Apparently, ACC does not believe that the mayor of Anchorage can seek advice and counsel on a major piece of legislation from an experienced land use attorney.

My guides in this effort were the 2020 Comprehensive Plan, earlier comprehensive plans and the existing Title 21 code coupled with the fact that Anchorage is a substantially developed city and an understanding of the costs and benefits associated with major changes in the land use code on an already existing city. I stove for a balance between often competing goals and objectives.

After several months of meetings and discussions with numerous interested and knowledgeable individuals and groups, I presented my recommendations for the Mayor's consideration. (The recommendations and Planning Department comments are on the MOA Title 21 web pages.)

After a series of meetings with me and his planning staff, the mayor approved some of my recommendations. He referred the others to the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC). PZC is a public body charged with the responsibility for reviewing and making recommendations on land use issues. PZC held a series of public meetings and work sessions to consider over a 100 amendments by the Planning Department, issues raised by members of the public and my recommendations which were presented in written form at a public hearing before PZC. As was the case with the mayor, some of my recommendations were adopted. Some were not.

Subsequently, the Assembly's Title 21 Committee held a series of public meetings to consider PCZ's recommendations, additional amendments proposed by the Planning Department as well as issues raised by the public. (Recordings and minutes of the Assembly Title 21 Committee public meetings are on the MOA Title 21 web pages.)

Every time in the last three years that I have been asked to make a presentation on the proposed land use code at a public forum (community councils, civic organizations, etc.), I have done so. At each forum I addressed the issues associated with the proposed code. Those forums have included people who disagreed with my views. Nevertheless, we engaged in civil discussions that were, I believe, informative.

The Assembly is now preparing to make final amendments and adopt the new land use code. The Assembly has held three lengthy public hearings. The Title 21 Committee will meet once again to consider what was presented and heard during the public hearing process.

As a life long citizen of Anchorage, I intend to voice my opinions on the new code. In doing so I will discuss the issues themselves, continuing my practice of dealing in principles, not personalities.

 

Dan Coffey is a longtime Anchorage attorney, consultant, lobbyist and former Assembly member.

 

 

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