The rewrite of the Sitka Comprehensive Plan is nearing the action-item phase — the point where planners will decide what’s an idea worth pursuing, and what’s not.
This Tuesday evening (11-8-16) the Sitka Planning Commission will put its their cards on the table in an Open House, and ask residents what direct steps should be taken to shape housing, economics, and land use in Sitka over the next 15 years.
Juneau-based planning consultant Barbara Sheinberg has been assisting Sitka’s Planning Department and Planning Commission to, “layout the vision for the future in a sequence of actionable steps to get there,” she says.
The Sitka Comprehensive Plan was last revised in 2007. Over the past few months, the Planning Commission has narrowed the focus of this latest revision on three major areas: Housing, Economics, and Land Use.
Maegan Bosak is Sitka’s director of planning and community development. Bosak says each area has several goals. In housing, for instance, “Our draft housing goal is to expand the range, affordability and quality of housing in Sitka, while maintaining attractive liveable neighborhoods,” she says.
Tuesday’s Open House is intended to solicit public input on how to achieve that goal. Bosak outlines some of the action items.
“We’ve talked about smaller lot sizes. Allowing more lot coverage. Different kinds of setbacks in certain parts of town. We’ve talked about changing parking requirements; in areas where there’s higher density having just one parking space required rather than two. Increasing the number of long-term rentals as opposed to short-term. Kind of changing that switch and going to a different kind of rental market.”
There are similar lists of action items for Sitka’s economic future, and for land use. Economics includes ways of supporting Sitka’s maritime industry, seafood processing, and tourism. Under land use, the objectives ask residents to consider how the community is organized.
“The buzzword in planning is ‘placemaking.’ So making a place that people really want to be. Incompatible land uses. We’ve got some pockets of zoning that don’t seem to flow with the overall intent of Sitka. So we’re working to change those. Looking at municipal land. Managing it in a fair and strategic manner.”
Some land use action items include selling municipal property to create mixed-use areas that are commercial on the lower floor, and residential above. Also, creating neighborhood gardens.
The Sitka Comprehensive Plan Open House will take place in conjunction with a first-ever Affordable Housing Fair. The fair will consolidate information from all the various opportunities available in Sitka: US Rural Development, the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, the Sitka Community Land Trust, and commercial realtors lenders.
Bosak says that during the Planning Commission’s housing discussions a common theme among the public was, “We just need a place to get the information.” Booths will be open in Harrigan Centennial Hall 5-8 PM on the evening of Tuesday, November 8.
KCAW’s Melissa Marconi-Wentzel contributed to this story.