Both sides criticize Anchorage zoning plan at public hearing

Rosemary Shinohara

Contractor D.L. Landry seemed to hold a minority view at the first public hearing for the latest version of a proposed new zoning code for Anchorage, Title 21.

"I'm very excited about Title 21," he said at Tuesday's Anchorage Assembly meeting. "It's a good opportunity for Anchorage to grow up a little bit."

Otherwise, developers criticized the latest rewrite as unfavorable to them. And several of those who want more design rules in Anchorage said this version isn't as good as an earlier one -- a more restrictive version that the Assembly provisionally adopted a chapter at a time between 2007 and 2010.

Landry said he supports the provisionally adopted version.

The revised zoning code covers development issues ranging from commercial design to placement of dumpsters. For example, it says windows or entrances must take up at least 15 percent of the side of a fourplex that faces a street. It requires landscaping between driveways of townhouses. It sets stream setbacks from buildings at 25 feet in the Anchorage Bowl -- less than is recommended by national experts.

More than 40 people testified over 2½ hours Tuesday night. Assembly chairman Ernie Hall said the hearing will continue at an Assembly meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Some developers said the current version would get in the way of their doing business.

The latest rewrite "disdained" development, architect Don Dwiggins said."It's not balanced at all."

Shaun Debenham, part-owner of a real estate property management company, said the city should keep the current code.

"We have a code that works. ...Why change it?" he asked.

Others objected to the way the proposed code has been handled over the past two years.

The Rabbit Creek Community Council voted this month to ask the Assembly to reject the latest rewrite, said Nancy Pease, representing the council.

"There was virtually no proper public process" involved in shaping the current version, Pease said. She said the Assembly committee overseeing the rewrite listened to developers throughout, but not the general public.

"The process was hijacked by special interests," Bill Sherwonit said, urging the Assembly to turn down the latest rewrite.

Most of an earlier version of Title 21 was "provisionally adopted" by the Assembly by 2010.

After Mayor Dan Sullivan came into office, the process of adopting chapters of the new code halted while he and his consultant reviewed the changes. Sullivan recommended some amendments. Then the Planning and Zoning Commission substantially rewrote many provisions. Finally, an Assembly committee headed by Debbie Ossiander reviewed everyone else's work and decided which version to go with.



Municipality's Title 21 rewrite project site