Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan issued a St. Patrick's Day veto of a plan to turn 16 acres of East Anchorage property off Muldoon Road into parkland. The park designation was approved at the March 11 meeting of the Anchorage Assembly, by a 9-2 vote.
The ordinance to turn the property -- part of a 29-acre parcel the city bought from the federal government -- into city parkland was proposed by East Anchorage Assembly Member Adam Trombley. Trombley is locked in a three-way race for his seat on the Assembly against former Alaska state Rep. Pete Peterson and Mao Tosi, a community activist and former NFL player. Sullivan said he believes the decision to dedicate the parcel as parkland is premature.
"The Assembly members sometimes talk about process when it's convenient," Sullivan said Monday evening. "But when there are times it's not convenient, the process doesn't seem to matter as much."
Mayor Sullivan said he wants to wait to decide about the land until the East Anchorage District Plan -- which recommends development and future planning for the area -- is complete. The mayor said the plan will be released within the next few weeks. After that, it will go through a 90-day public comment and review period, with a final draft ready as early as August. In his veto, the mayor noted that Anchorage has a shortage of business and residential housing space, and indicated that some of the land -- especially the section that borders Muldoon Road -- might be better used for commercial purposes.
But in his recommendation for passage before the Assembly, Trombley reminded members that the Muldoon community council has overwhelmingly approved making the entire 29-acre plot into parkland. Trombley said he is not giving up on protecting the land as a park.
"I look forward to overriding him," Trombley said.
The property was part of a commercial greenhouse bordering Chester Creek, near the intersection of Debarr and Muldoon roads that was bought for $5 million in 2006 from the federal government, after it was seized in a drug raid. Part of the property -- 13 acres that cuts through a heavily-developed housing area in East Anchorage -- has already been protected as parkland. The loan the city got, from publicly-owned electric utility Municipal Light and Power, to buy the land has already been paid back with money from the municipality's general fund. And that's money that the mayor said deserves to be put back into city coffers, with the potential sale of part of the remaining 16 acres.
"I think it (the location of the land) speaks for itself," the mayor said. "It's frontage road on Muldoon, and part of having a plan is to determine the best and highest use. Some folks in community might see the land's best use as a multi-use property."
It takes eight votes to override a mayoral veto. While the ordinance to designate the land as parkland passed with a 9-2 vote, Trombley acknowledged that he may lose a vote after the mayor's veto.
But the East Anchorage Assemblyman said the end result will be the same: The land will become public parkland, now or later. Trombley noted that the soon-to-be compete East Anchorage District plan is only advisory and the Anchorage Assembly will make the final call on the Muldoon property.
"Do we dedicate the park now or after the East Anchorage district plan is complete?" Trombley said. "That's what the community wants, that's what the community gets."
Contact Sean Doogan at sean(at)alaskadispatch.com