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By Dan Rudy 

Planning and Zoning looking for new commissioners


Possible delays may loom for continued development as Wrangell’s Planning and Zoning Commission struggled to meet its requirements for quorum last week.

After postponing their regularly scheduled session from Thursday evening to midday Friday, the commission found itself with enough members to start a meeting, but not finish it. Commissioner Jim Shoemaker excused himself from an item of business early on due to a stated conflict of interest.

The agenda item in question was the preliminary plat review of the Torgramsen-Glasner subdivision, requested by Don Glasner of property owned by Lisa Torgramsen. Shoemaker explained his relationship to the property owner and association with the project left him to benefit financially from approval of the plat, making his vote an impropriety. He had also excused himself from two other related decisions at previous commission meetings.

Section 3.04.112 of the Wrangell Charter rules that borough officials cannot participate in actions where they have “substantial financial interest,” which is further defined as an expectation of receiving pecuniary benefit. Once a potential conflict is raised in a meeting, it usually falls upon fellow members of the governing body to decide whether or not the perceived interest is valid.

Even within the broadest interpretation of what a pecuniary benefit might entail, Shoemaker told fellow commissioners his position in the matter fell within those parameters. “Having this action is contingent to the sale,” he said. “My advice is to err on the side of caution.”

After consulting the code, Economic Development director Carol Rushmore explained that at least four of the seven commission members must be present and able to vote in order to conduct business. One commission seat is currently vacant, and commissioners Terri Henson and Rudy Briskar were both absent, though Briskar was finally reached by phone during a brief recess.

Briskar arrived shortly after, allowing Planning and Zoning to approve the preliminary review. Commissioners passed the proposed subdivision, with the staff recommendation that five-foot utility easements be established on either side of the property. A final plat will return for review at the commission’s next meeting.

Final review was approved for a replatting and storage easement vacation requested by Chuck Jenkins. The property straddles Front Street and Silvernail Road, and he wants to split it into two lots, one with access to Front Street and the other to Silvernail.

On the Silvernail side, Jenkins wants to eventually build a 40-by-83-foot arched steel structure, 38-feet tall and topped with fabric. It would be used primarily as a storage building for his welding business, necessary due to a lack of space at the boatyard nearby. The other lot would continue to be used for parking.

Commissioners also granted final plat review to a request by Robert and Jamie Rusaw to subdivide their Wrangell Island West property. The approval came with the added condition requiring a five-foot utility easement along both sides of the property line.

Though its business was eventually concluded, the risk remains that Planning and Zoning will be left in a similar situation in coming months. An advertised opening on the body has so far not received any interest, and a second seat will be vacated once Briskar’s term ends in October.

This is not the first time Planning and Zoning has had to defer business to a later date or cancel a meeting. While the body can exercise these options, cumulative delays can affect property sales and other projects on the island whose action is contingent on receiving the proper permitting. Wider-ranging discussions have also been put on hold, regarding regulating container use and the future zoning of Entitlement Lands.

Those interested in sitting on the commission are encouraged to contact the Borough Clerk’s office for more information. After submitting a letter of intent, candidates are then considered for appointment by the mayor.


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