Wrangell Sentinel -

By Dan Rudy 

P&Z approves step in road office project


Planning and Zoning commissioners lent their support to a proposal by Wrangell Cooperative Association’s Transportation Office for a special contract zone, which would allow it to build a combined office, storage and maintenance facility in a residential area.

The 6.87-acre portion is just north of the Panhandle Trailer Court on Zimovia Highway, near its intersection with Case Avenue. Currently zoned for single-family residential use, WCA would like to be able to develop the property for light industrial purposes.

Currently the Transportation Office is located at an office at Lynch Street, and relies on private storage for its equipment and work vehicles. The request for a contract zone would be a next step for the WCA in securing more permanent facilities for its road program.

Speaking on behalf of the WCA office, Esther Ashton explained their new facility would adopt measures to make it unobtrusive to neighbors, maintaining a buffer area of woodland around the property, keeping strict operating hours to reduce traffic and noise, and making use of directional lighting.

“WCA is very conscious of the issues surrounding contract zoning,” she said.

Some of those issues were raised by potential neighbors. Resident Bruce Smith appeared to express his concerns about the proposal.

“It sounds pretty benign right now,” he commented, going on to say there were no guarantees activity would take on a more heavily industrial nature. Explaining that he works

graveyard shifts at the police department and rests during

the day, Smith felt workplace noise during even regular business hours would still be disturbing.

In examining the proposal, city staff recommended that the commission not approve the facility. In its notes, staff based this decision on land use concerns, writing that the light industrial uses could “very well generate enough impacts as to affect the single family residential nature of the existing residences.”

On the commission, Planning and Zoning chair Terri Henson came out as being strongly against the contract zone.

“I personally can’t say I’m in favor of putting industrial use – even if it’s small – in the middle of residential,” she explained. Citing similar exceptions given in the past to operations at Shoemaker Bay as an example, Henson said policing use agreed upon in the contract would be difficult, if not impossible.

“It’s hard to keep control of things once you let things go,” she said. “I don’t believe we are capable of enforcing anything.”

Henson pointed out there were still lots available at the industrial park to Wrangell’s east that would be more suitable.

Transportation Office manager Bill Willard responded he had already entertained the idea of building at one of the lots, but found the logistical requirements to develop the land would be too expensive. In April, the WCA had approached the City and Borough Assembly with a proposal to acquire two lots on the 61 Block there for the project, but the proposal fell through.

“Utilities would cost more than the lots would cost,” Willard said.

Other commissioners were more amenable to WCA’s proposal. Don McConachie noted the positive impact the Transportation Office had on upkeep for various roads and sidewalks around Wrangell.

“I also feel that the Wrangell Cooperative Association has done an awful lot of things for this community,” he added.

With some reservations, McConachie recommended approving the proposal. Among the stipulations, he wanted the city to have approval of a final site plan, and would require a minimum of 50-foot buffers along adjacent properties and indoor-only storage at the facility. Henson had pushed for a 75-foot minimum, but other commissioners felt that would be too restrictive at the irregularly-shaped 6.87-acre site.

Along with Apryl Hutchinson and Duke Mitchell, the commission voted to approve the proposal 3-1, with Jim Shoemaker abstaining due to a material conflict. The proposal will move on to the Assembly at its Dec. 8 meeting, and will be subject to a public hearing.

Commissioners also approved the vacation request of two easements at another portion of the same property, the Torgramsen-Smith subdivision.

Commissioners approved the final plat for a Meyer Family Subdivision, of Lot 9 USS 2673, creating Lots 9-A and 9-B, zoned RMU-M, requested by Ronald and Cheryl Ann Meyer.

Commissioner Mitchell abstained from a vote for final plat review of the Mitchell-Buhler replat of Lots 6, 7, 8 and 9 USS 2589, zoned industrial and waterfront development. The item was requested by Mark Mitchell, and was approved.

Planning and Zoning also continued its discussion of potential use for Wrangell’s entitlement lands, focusing on Earl West Cove and Wrangell Island East. Along with the Economic Development Commission, it will evaluate current use and come up with recommendations for future development. Both commissions’ recommendations will together provide a foundation for the public workshops and community discussions to come.

The areas are part of 9,006 acres transferred to Wrangell by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources after

becoming a borough. The entitlement lands also include parcels at Zarembo Island, Mill Creek, Olive Cove, Crittenden Creek, Thoms Place and Sunny Bay.


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