Assembly Advances Affordable Housing

By SHANNON HAUGLAND

Sentinel Staff Writer

The Assembly took its first step Tuesday night toward creating a six-home affordable housing project on the old city shops property.

The vote was 6-0 to approve an ordinance selling the plot at 1306 Halibut Point Road to Sitka Community Development Corporation for $1. The ordinance states that all this, and the other two parcels, 1410 and 1414 HPR, will be dedicated to affordable housing.

The initial project will be to build six affordable homes at 1306 that will be sold to private owners, but with the land remaining in the ownership of the Community Land Trust, established by the SCDC. 

Voting in favor of the ordinance, which will be up for final reading Nov. 24, were Ben Miyasato, Aaron Swanson, Tristan Guevin, Matthew Hunter, Steven Eisenbeisz and Bob Potrzuski. Mayor Mim McConnell recused herself because she is executive director of the nonprofit corporation.

In a 2006 election voters approved a proposition to dedicate the vacant land to affordable housing. A fully designed project for the site by an outside development firm was ready for bid about six years ago, but it failed when the necessary state and federal funding was not awarded.

The ordinance that passed on first reading Tuesday night will allow for six houses to be built on the parcel closest to a veterinary clinic to the south.

Supporters of the plan hope that if this first development is successful, the other parcels will be transferred. 

SCDC President Randy Hughey said today only one parcel is being transferred at this time to allow the corporation to come up with a plan for protecting the future homeowners from a potential slide on the western and northern end of the property. Hughey noted the slide that occurred in the area in 2005.

There was no debate about the ordinance. McConnell said today she’s happy with the vote.

“I was so excited,” she said. “I’m really pleased. It’s been a long time coming. SCDC has been around since 2006, a lot of members have come and gone, and they’ve all been trying to get affordable housing going here. I feel like getting 1306 is the first step closer to having six houses built. It is a huge deal.”

She also likes the structure of the community land trust, in which the title for the land remains in the trust, with the homeowner purchasing only the house.

“I’m excited about getting affordable housing that is permanently affordable on that land,” McConnell said. 

At the Assembly meeting, Hughey said he believes the ordinance will have a “positive impact on affordable housing in Sitka.”

The Assembly approved an amendment that allows the administrator to execute documents necessary to convey “Parcel 1306 subject to final platting of the lot to ensure there is no encroachment of city assets or existing utility easements.”

Miyasato, one of the co-sponsors of the ordinance, said he’s pleased to see the project moving forward.

“It’s been discussed since I ran for Assembly. It’s true we’re losing people because they can’t afford to live here,” he said.

Potrzuski also spoke in favor, saying this will help people remain in the community.

Asked how the project will be funded, Hughey said SCDC is applying for a grant from the Rasmuson Foundation to cover initial development costs, including drainage and utilities.

In a separate project SCDC is building an affordable house on Lillian Drive. It is not yet completed, but it has been listed for sale. McConnell said today there has been some interest, but the house hasn’t sold yet.

Guevin said this project is one piece of the affordable housing issue, and he’s interested in the possibility of affordable rentals as well.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the Assembly:

– dissolved the Tourism Commission and the Strategic Planning Commission.

– appointed Pamela Ash to the Marijuana Advisory Committee. She was among seven applicants for the position. The Assembly separately introduced an ordinance to make the Marijuana Advisory Committee the city’s regulatory authority on marijuana through Feb. 24, 2016.

– appointed Mike Nurco to Port and Harbors Commission, Jeff Arndt to the Health Needs and Human Services Commission, and Hugh Bevan to the Citizens Task Force.

– amended a zoning map to rezone an island just off Galankin Island from General Island to Large Island.

– approved a liquor license renewal for the Bayview Restaurant and Pub, a liquor license ownership transfer to the Bayview, and a liquor license transfer for the Mean Queen at 206 Harbor Drive, the former location of Van Winkle and Son restaurant.

– approved a project to expand the Jarvis Street bulk tank improvement project to include remedies of defects identified after the diesel spill the weekend of August 14.

 

 

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