When the Sitka Assembly met on Tuesday (9-14-21), it authorized a land sale to the Sitka Community Land Trust for the price of one dollar.

The sale was approved by the voters in a ballot question in 2006 for the development of an affordable housing project. In 2015, the Assembly transferred the first section of the allotted land to the Land Trust.  The group has since built three homes on its current property, and plans to build four more there. There are similar plans to build another seven homes on the lots transferred this week.    

During public comment, Executive Director Mim McConnell said the organization held two open houses earlier this month, and the waitlist for housing in the neighborhood is growing. 

“So this fills a, kind of a section of our community that that don’t make enough to buy a house on the market, but they do make enough to have a mortgage that ends up being right about about what they’d be paying for rent,” she said. “And so it gets them out of that rental loop that you get into and gets them into a better place where they can start building equity for their future.”

Richard Wein was one of two people who called on the assembly to press pause on the vote, and to consider other options. 

“But I don’t think that their current strategy meets that need– it meets for middle class needs, which I think is wonderful. But there are many people here who need truly starter homes. And I think that you could do so much better by trying to sell the land,” Wein said.

During assembly deliberation, member Valorie Nelson said things had changed a lot since voters approved the land sales 15 years ago. She said she’d like more information on the organization’s financials. During assembly deliberation, Kevin Mosher said he understood the housing wasn’t affordable for everyone, but it was one option.

“This is just one of many different types of affordable housing, that is a real difficult word to agree on. Everyone has a different opinion on what that would be,” Mosher said. “This isn’t for everyone. It’s just one of many options to hopefully open some living spaces for people here.”

The measure passed 5-1 with member Valorie Nelson opposed.

In other business, the Sitka Assembly:

  • Approved on first reading an ordinance requiring use of a face covering in certain indoor settings and providing a penalty. Read more about the ordinance here.
  • Voted 5-1 in favor of supporting the development of a new public use Seaplane Base at the city’s preferred location, north end of Japonski Island, Sitka, Alaska, with Member Valorie Nelson opposed
  • Approved a resolution urging the United States Government to advocate for a permanent ban on tailings dams and for a temporary halt to the permitting, exploration, development, and expansion of Canadian mines along Alaska-British Columbia transboundary salmon rivers until the United States-Canada Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are upheld and an international agreement on watershed protections is implemented
  • Discussed entering a funding and maintenance agreement with the Birds and Benches Work Group of the Sitka Decolonizing Dialogue for the installation and upkeep of three benches in the courtyard area of Harrigan Centennial Hall
  • Unanimously voted on second reading to amend Title 22 “Zoning” of the Sitka General Code by modifying Chapter 22.16 “District Regulations” for the Recreation District
  • Unanimously voted on second reading to amend the official Sitka Zoning Map to rezone 4951 Halibut Point Road from Single-Family and Duplex Residential (R-1) to Recreation District (R)
  • Unanimously approved  making supplemental appropriations for Fiscal Year 2022 (IT Personnel / Approval of a New Position)
  • Unanimously approved making 50,000 in supplemental appropriations for Fiscal Year 2021 (IT Fund Expense)
  • Unanimously approved supplemental appropriations for Fiscal Year 2021 (School Bond Debt Refunding Expense)
  • Amend Title 2 “Administration” of the Sitka General Code by deleting Chapter 2.12 “City and Borough of Sitka Hospital Board”, Chapter 2.14 “Historic Trust Board” and Chapter 2.64 “Seafood Processing Economic Development Committee” and updating Chapter 2.16 “Library Commission”