Last month, Sitka’s planning commission denied Youth Advocates of Sitka a permit to build a facility for teens experiencing homelessness and trafficking. Tonight, (5-9-23) the local nonprofit will appeal that decision before the Sitka Assembly. 

Last year, Youth Advocates, also known as YAS,  received $2 million dollars in federal grant funding for the project through Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office. Since then, the organization has twice applied for a permit to turn a residential property into the facility which would serve young people from Sitka and throughout the state. In January, the group tried to secure a duplex on Dodge Circle, but saw pushback from neighbors, and the planning commission unanimously denied their application. In April, it tried again, this time for a waterfront duplex on state highway Halibut Point Road. The commission denied their application on a split vote.

In its appeal, YAS challenges the planning commission’s decision, and stresses how their project lines up with the goals of the city’s comprehensive plan. They also argue that the decision to deny the permit is a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, which protects people from discrimination when renting or buying a home. 

Tonight, it’s the assembly’s responsibility to decide whether the planning commission, in denying the permit, made “a sound decision” under the city’s zoning code. The assembly first plans to hear the appeal, as well as a presentation from city staff and public testimony.   

The Sitka Assembly meets at 6 p.m. tonight at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Raven News will broadcast the meeting live, following Alaska News Nightly.