Saturday’s Emergency Meeting Was Well Attended

| March 2, 2012 | 3 Comments

by Jenny Chissus
On Saturday at 12:50pm I received a call from our City Manager that we were going to have an emergency meeting regarding the 50 foot setback ordinance – as Assemblymen Bill Smith and Mako Haggerty were arriving at the airport at 1:15pm, Saturday the 25th of February, 2012.  Only 25 minutes notice!

There were quite a few folks who made it a priority  to get together on such short notice to speak with the assemblymen regarding this issue.  We had Jere Murray – Parks & Rec and concerned citizen, Paulie Carluccio – P&Z Commissioner for Seldovia and borough Planning representative, Gerry Patrick- council member , Vivian Rojas – council member, Walter McInnes – council member, Tim Dillon – city manager, Dean Lent, – council member, John Colberg – council member,  Robert Purpura – council member, Mako Haggarty – KPB Assembly, Bill Smith – KPB Assembly, Steve Stanish – representing Dillon & Dillon Construction, Jim Hopkins – Hopkins Brothers Construction, and  Jenny Chissus – Realtor, Seldovia Gazette Editor and concerned citizen.

Mako began by stating that he had been over this past week, when he had the opportunity to view a few slough properties after the Seldovia Council meeting on Wednesday.  He had a sense of their concerns, for owners of properties both inside and outside of the city limits, and how this ordinance may impact these properties.

Bill Smith mentioned that the ordinance amendment introduced was there to get something going before the May  1st implementation date – he felt that this was their best shot at addressing the situation.  He felt this was the only option, other than exemption.  Bill stated that one can always apply for a variance, but he put forth this proposal for conditional use, because variances have to meet very strict guidelines.  Conditional use is an easier process, and a significant assistance from where the ordinance is now.

To summarize the very passionate and intense points that were made to the Assemblymen that afternoon are as follows:

  • When this ordinance was rolled out last spring, no one knew it had anything to do with the slough.  No one knew that we were in the catalogue – no one knew it would impact the slough, or that we were involved – as it was originally referred to as the Seldovia River, and we are not the Seldovia River….  The city didn’t know, the borough reps didn’t know – we all didn’t know it was going on till this past October – when the River City Group got here – they didn’t even know the difference between the river and the slough.  People are feeling hoodwinked and deceived.
  • We were not given the opportunity to be heard, as a community that is directly and substantially affected by this ordinance!  No notice was given in writing to property owners that are affected.  Even as a city, we inform any property owners of things happening in their area – be it a conditional use permit, variance or building permit.  Many folks who are directly affected still, have not heard about this!
  • There are so many problems with the process and the situation – that says that this won’t work here in Seldovia.  Seward is EXCLUDED, not exempted – so there is a precedence.  As a community we certainly want the rivers/fisheries protected – but we can’t let a huge part of our properties “taken” or made unusable.
  • 50% usage limitation would mean that no one could build on these small lots that are very typical along the slough.
  • Bill Smith mentioned that if the city issues a permit, the ordinance talks about covering native vegetation – but if there is no vegetation, then it will not affect that area – it is all about balance.
  • The question regarding who will manage the code?  Who has vegetation, who doesn’t.  If the city decides, what knowledge or scientific basis do we have to make such judgements?
  • Bill reiterated that he understands that we all want to be excluded.  But he feels the amendment would be beneficial – maybe it needs to be extended further – and he would appreciate help on refining the amendment.
  • It was mentioned that it may be helpful to go over our city codes, we are already being responsible – but by going under the new ordinance it limits what we do and how we improve the slough.  If you took a drive down Kachemak Drive, you would see that they are at their boundaries and full setbacks.   These regulations would limit the ability to build homes and create value on these properties.
  • We see the real value of the properties along the slough, and how important it is to the value of every individual’s land that they are able to develop it and be a part of this unique community’s appeal and character.  Most of the lots are so small that the 50 foot regulation wouldn’t only affect the waterfront lots, but the lots behind them!    There are also many lots that are larger than the .3 acres that would be excluded from the amendment.  The other important fact is that we as a community already go through Alaska Fish and Game, Army Corps of Engineers, City of Seldovia Planning & Zoning Commission, and the borough… We are already managing these areas responsibly and with respect to any and all animals, fisheries, etc.
  • Most of the people in this room are most concerned about the slough, south of the airport – north of the bridge to the lagoon – erosion and siltation on the slough is affected by the runway, grading, etc.  DOT is not subject to the ordinance – many of them are below mean water, due to the earthquake, and many homes are built on pilings, and the only access is via walkways, boardwalks, etc.  Shoreline everywhere else is steep and rocky – though we are not biologists – the homes on pilings are actually a shelter for spawning fish and small fry – due to the protection of the pilings, decks, etc.   There is no spawning in the lagoon.    None of these extra regulations will protect the fish at all!
  • Bill Smith stated that there is an obscure state  law that charges the state departments in observing the local ordinances.
  • Look at Seattle – with everyone building asphalt streets that drain into the water.  They don’t belly ache… We, as Seldovians, in a community of under 300 people,  have to develop our waterfront – it is our only potential for growth – tourism, second homes and want to be on the waterfront – do you want to tie our hands?   We don’t need another layer of bureaucracy – the appeal of the waterfront brings people to town, and puts our folks to work.  If Seward, Whittier, and communities rich in traditional Alaskan waterfront living like Ketchikan can be excluded – so can we.
  • In the ordinance they referred to fish spawning, at Fish Creek – not the Seldovia Slough.  This really hurts us and it won’t work.
  • The rules are designed to protect fish streams, creeks and rivers  – not the slough – which impacts our whole community.  This is not the Seldovia River.
  • This ordinance will limit people’s interest in purchasing land as they will have no assurance that they can build.  They already have to go through F&G, Corps of Engineers, City of Seldovia and now, you are proposing another layer?  No one will be interested in properties if they can’t build on and enjoy them!  We can’t promise them that their building plans would be approved.  This will lower the value of property – as we said before, the value of property is based on location, location, location, and if folks can’t build their dream home near the water, the value won’t be there, which means (ultimately) less money for the city!  The charm of our waterfront homes is similar to Seward, Whittier, Ketchikan, etc, and taking that away will hurt our community in a drastically economic way.    We have responsible checks in place – we should be able to monitor ourselves with our current situation.
  • We also have issue with the fact that when someone in Seldovia applies for a variance of any code, everyone within 300 feet of that property that is requesting the variance must be notified and 30 days notice prior to the hearing at the borough level.  NO NOTICE was given to the MANY property owners that were being affected by this ordinance.   That seems very sneaky, as we all have a right to voice our opinion and opposition to anything that affects our property in such a huge way – PRIOR to an ordinance being approved.  It is crazy to have not notified property owners – many of them have said they never even heard of this!  This is an ordinance that directly impacts the value, build ability of the land and ability to enjoy private property.  It should have been made known to those affected.  It is obvious that it was not adequately talked about, as our own representative at the borough level didn’t even know that it would affect us, as well as the Kenai River Center who didn’t understand and couldn’t explain it when they came to Seldovia.  They just recently sent us a letter about how this affects us – months after the fact.
  • Mako clearly stated that “All that I’ve heard is that this ordinance doesn’t apply to Seldovia and we should be excluded – that has been heard!”
  • We understand erosion, boats on the river – look what is coming out of McKeon flats, it is brown – God/Mother Nature puts more silt in the waters than people do… let’s be reasonable.
  • Bill Smith –  because of the way it is listed and catalogued, it doesn’t talk about the lagoon and spawning in the lagoon (Coho spawning?)  In order to exclude it, (the slough) we must find out biologically that is it a sound decision scientifically.
  • It has been found out that it is not considered a spawning area  but a migration area – if this decision – regarding the ordinance for the slough  is not scientifically sound – then it would be possible for the assembly to see that this is not an avenue we should take.  The slough should never have been nominated.
  • The borough has adopted the catalogue as the end all,  we should have never been in the catalogue because we are salt water and not fresh water.
  • Bill – This will go out for public hearing – and all the practical applications of it – so that we can make sure that it doesn’t just go into effect without the modifications that are certainly necessary.
  • Tim our City Manager stated that as we go forward with Fish and Game, and request removal of the Seldovia Slough from the catalogue – we want to make sure we can get the approval from F&G – before the May 1st deadline.   We are hopeful to have the assembly’s understanding that the timing to get that information from F&G might not meet the May 1st deadline.

We left the meeting at the Chambers to go look at the properties along the slough.  I took Mako, Bill, Tim Dillon and Paulie in my vehicle and we went to the bridge, to the boardwalk, along Kachemak and Shoreline Drive and to Stu Felberg and Brian Slover’s homes on the lagoon, so that they could look at the properties first hand.

I believe that Mako and Bill were very surprised to see such a crowd of Seldovia supporters able to greet them last minute to go over the many issues surrounding this ordinance and its major impact on our community.   From 1:15 – 3:45pm they heard loud and clear the big voices of our small community!

If you have any comments or questions regarding this ordinance, you may click here to view the ordinance and the proposed amendment.  You may also contact our city manager, any of the Assembly members, legislators, Fish & Game, Kenai River Center members, etc!

If you own property along the slough, there is also a group of concerned property owners that are keeping informed together – you may email Beth Terry at the following email:  to find out more about being on that mailing list.

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Comments (3)

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  1. brian slover says:

    thanks for keeping your ear to the tracks

  2. Beth Terry says:

    Great article Jenny! I’m so glad that so many Seldovians were able to voice their concerns on such short notice. And thanks for mentioning the email. We have been trying to figure out what is going on and educate ourselves on this for about three weeks now. I send out email notices whenever I hear about anything happening.

    And now I’ll let everyone know about this article!


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