Monday, June 15, 2009

Emma Creek West: they still haven't fixed that public planning process

Attention Esteroids! The borough (read: the Land Management department) is planning to go forward with Emma Creek West. From the Butteris:
I did talk to Karrie Shaw, and she confirmed that they are indeed going to try and push through the subdivision, as a considerable amount of money has already been spent in the planning process. She did mention the possibility of putting in some sort of firebreak down the hill to mitigate fire hazard, and both State Forestry DNR and the Borough Division of Emergency Services confirmed that they have been approached by Paul Costello regarding this. She did not have much more information (for me, anyway) than that when I talked to her.
Paul Costello, the head of the Land Management department, contacted Bruce Jamieson to let him know that there will be a public meeting June 22, 6:30 pm at the Noel Wien Library to discuss the plan and listen to comments from the neighborhood. There is no agenda as yet.

[Addendum: Costello has cancelled the meeting. It will be rescheduled for sometime in July or August. For more information, contact Bruce Jamieson at 479-4673.]

As we have seen in past attempts to develop land around here, there have been many flaws in the designs of subdivisions, not least of which is a disregard for the impact of traffic, small size and poor proportions of the lots involved, and a lack of notification and engagement of the neighborhood. This time, it looks like Costello is making an effort to let the Ester Planning Committee know with sufficient advance warning, which is nice. Still, the word is trickling out rather slowly.

One large problem observed previously was a disconnect between the Department of Land Management and the Department of Community Planning;also, the public doesn't have much input to the whole process until fairly late in the game. When the first brouhaha over land on the Old Nenana Highway came up, the Ester Community Association and the borough mayor, Jim Whittaker, met at Hartung Hall. The outcome of that meeting was that Ester needed to come up with a land use/community plan to determine the best use of the land, and get it approved by the borough, or else the borough would simply develop piecemeal with the land nomination process it has (see the borough's parcel nomination map and guide—a 13-page PDF). Without that plan, the borough bulls ahead and we go from crisis to crisis. Voila, here we are again: another crisis brewing.

Two Rivers came up with a community land use plan; we can do the same. Unfortunately, when the chair of the ECA's community planning committee, Roy Earnest, left town, and the dust settled from Emma Creek East, the committee more or less dissolved. One good thing that remains from the original committee, however, is the e-mail list, and people have been keeping an eye on the borough so we don't get surprised again. Bruce and Sandy Jamieson and a few others have been keeping in contact with Costello et al., which has helped, and now Roy Earnest and family are back, and Roy's ready to plunge right back into the planning whirlwind (Roy had served on the planning commission or an advisory board with the borough, too, if I recall correctly).

The borough provides a handy guide to the public planning process, How to Participate in Land Use Decisions (another 13-page PDF). There are several places where meetings are supposed to be listed; this one at Noel Wien is not in the public notices, nor anywhere else that I could find, even though this is supposed to happen next week.

The borough certainly did not notify the local paper!

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