The Sitka Assembly held a work session Tuesday night (5-10-16) to review a land use inventory recently conducted by the Planning Department. Long term, the city wants to determine what municipal lands can be put up for sale.
In preparing the document, Senior Planner Mike Scarcelli said that department staff traveled on foot and by car, looked at aerial maps, and pulled old city records to try to pin down how much land is city-owned (Answer: 1.8 million acres of land and 1.2 million acres of water) and how that land is being used (Answer: Only 1% of the land is developed and 2.4% of the tidelands are platted).
See the Planning Department’s 2016 land use inventory here.
“Our goal was really to go parcel by parcel and create a baseline inventory of current use is so we can figure out what’s going on now, where do we want to go, what trends are occurring and what may be causing those trends,” Scarcelli told the Assembly.
The land use inventory found that of the 1.8 million acres of land in the City and Borough of Sitka, only 1% is developed, mostly for residential purposes. The majority of industrial land is located out the road, but some of it is spot zoned, which is illegal.
“Spot zoning is a term that we often refer to when something’s not planned for. So when the market just drives up a particular type of use in a certain area, as opposed to having a set plan,” explained Planning and Community Development Director Maegan Bosak. “We’ll see areas where you have heavier commercial use in the middle of a residential lot. It doesn’t really make sense and causes for a lot of angst in the neighborhood. These are the cases we hear most about in the planning office, so our goal would be to move away from that.”
Another major goal Bosak shared is rewriting the land use section of Sitka’s Comprehensive Plan and making sales a less “cumbersome” process. One of her slides listed parcels deemed “surplus” to municipal needs and laid out a multi-year plan to put them on the market. That list of parcels includes Jacobs Circle Properties, Harbor Mountain Bypass, and two tracts above Sitka High which could fit 30 home sites.
The Citizens’ Task Force has encouraged the city to sell $1 million worth of land in the next year, but Bosak reminded the Assembly that sales won’t happen overnight.
“A lot of these portions – the high school tracts, the Harbor Mountain Bypass – those are going to take money to make money. Those need to be subdivided. There needs to be studies done. We need to have really comprehensive plans for how those are going to be laid out in terms of utilities, access, etc. So, that needs to be part of our future budgetary concerns if our intent is really to sell some good quality home sites,” Bosak said.
The Planning Commission will seek public input during their next land use meeting on June 7th at the Sitka Fire Department at 7 p.m.
During its regular meeting, the Assembly also passed – on second and final reading – an ordinance to allow short term rentals on boats and approved the municipal contribution to the school district at $6.7 million.
And before adjourning for the night, the Assembly got an update on the replacement of City Attorney Robin Schmid. Schmid was summarily dismissed last week after she retained an attorney of her own – Clay Keene of Ketchikan.
The Assembly appointed Brian Hanson as interim attorney, who is available to work ten hours a week. In the meantime, City Administrator Mark Gorman said the city’s legal affairs will be overseen by Reuben Yerkes.
“As you all recruit for a permanent replacement, we’ve got something in place that will keep the wheels on the bus,” Gorman said. Last meeting (4-26-16), the Assembly agreed to interview candidates for municipal attorney in late June.
And for the second time, an ordinance to create a utility subsidization program – sponsored by Assemblymen Tristan Guevin and Bob Potrzuski – was pulled from the agenda.