Although currently zoned Residential, community affairs director Maegan Bosak says there are a number of federal and state laws which would prevent the development of the cemetery. Nevertheless, Sitka mayor Matt Hunter says rezoning the site to something that is “a better reflection of its historical and cultural importance” is appropriate. (Photo courtesy of Bob Sam)

In response to a request from a Tribal Council member, the City of Sitka is moving ahead with plans to rezone the downtown Russian Orthodox cemetery.

The issue arose at Monday night’s (8-14-17) meeting of the city assembly and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.

Sitka mayor Matt Hunter explained the problem with the current zoning.

“Bob Sam spoke about the Russian Orthodox cemetery up at the end of Observatory Street, and the fact that it’s zoned R-1, or Residential. And that doesn’t mean people will build houses there, but he thought it could be something that would be a better reflection of its historic and cultural importance.”

Hunter said that Sitka’s community affairs director Maegan Bosak attended the meeting. In a follow-up call with KCAW, Bosak said that she has already introduced a zoning map amendment redesignating the site as public — the same designation covering all other cemeteries in town.

The cemetery was not on Monday night’s agenda. Both governments identified several other issues to address, however, prior to going into the meeting. The city gave presentations on the administrator hire, the Comprehensive Plan, a proposed town hall meeting on health care, and utility subsidization.

The Tribe discussed the downtown shuttle program, flagger certification, improving service on the marine highway, and the city’s support of the community bus system known as the Ride.

Tribal chair KathyHope Erickson said that ridership is up, and the service remains very important priority for the community.

“Now that we’re facing reduced funding for two-thirds of the Ride, it’s always been important to show municipal support, not just in ridership, but also in the government. We’re pleased that the city did come through in the end with the requested funding.”

The city’s contribution to the bus service this year was $25,000.

The City of Sitka and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska meet twice yearly in a government-to-government meeting, usually over dinner. This latest meeting was held at the Westmark Sitka.