CHEER SECTION – Sitka High and Mt. Edgecumbe High School cheerleaders react to a successful free throw Tuesday night at Sitka High during the cross-town boys basketball game. Edgecumbe boys and girls teams each won their games against Sitka High. Stories on the hard-fought games are on page 4 of today’s Sentinel. The region tournament takes place in Sitka in mid-March. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Planners OK 2 STRs, Reject Group Home

By ARIADNE WILL

Sentinel Staff Writer

After more than an hour of discussion and public comment Wednesday, the Planning Commission unanimously voted down a request for a conditional use permit that would have allowed Youth Advocates of Sitka to operate a quasi-institutional group home on Dodge Circle.

The request was met with heavy pushback from neighbors, with more than 20 signing a petition in opposition to the permit request.

Also Wednesday, the commission issued two conditional use permits for short-term rentals and received a short tutorial from Planning Director Amy Ainslie on how to use the city’s revised GIS technology.

Chair Chris Spivey and Vice Chair Darrell Windsor were unanimously re-elected. Spivey was absent and excused from the meeting. Commission member Katie Riley participated remotely and members Windsor, Stacy Mudry, and Wendy Alderson were present in person along with Assembly liaison Thor Christianson.

 

YAS permit request

YAS’s request for a conditional use permit for quasi-institutional group housing in a duplex at 1931 Dodge Circle was part of a process to begin a pilot program that aims to serve youths who have been victims of human trafficking and homelessness.

The program’s development has been, in large part, the result of state funding earmarked by Sen. Lisa Murkowski. The funding includes $2 million to be spent on a facility for the residential treatment program.

The duplex that YAS was interested in using for the program is located in the R-1 single-family and duplex residential district, where quasi-institutional homes are allowed as a conditional use. In other zones — such as areas zoned for commercial use — quasi-institutional homes are allowed by right.

Planning department staff members recommended approval of the request. In their report they said the presence of the group home for up to 12 residents would likely have had minimal impact on the neighborhood. 

Heather Meuret, executive director at YAS, said at the meeting that clients of the program would spend large amounts of time away from the property attending school, work, or therapeutic programming. She added that clients would have already gone through detox and screening to make sure they were a good fit for the program.

The duplex proposed for the group home is not currently owned by YAS. The finalization of the purchase would have taken place if the conditional use was approved. Dodge Circle is a one-street subdivision off Cascade Creek Road, which joins Halibut Point Road on the opposite side of the entrance to the Sea Mart parking lot.

Meuret said that the residential character of the Dodge Circle neighborhood would provide a peaceful place conducive to healing. 

Twelve of the 13 Sitkans who testified were neighborhood residents and all 12 spoke against the group home conditional use.

Concerns from neighbors ranged from fears that the program’s presence would negatively affect property values to the wear and tear vehicles would have on the private driveway used to access the duplex. 

Several neighbors also appeared nervous about who the clients would be, with one commenter describing the program as “importing troubled individuals from other communities into our neighborhood.”

Others expressed concern about the possibility for “disruptive behavior” in a neighborhood with many families and elderly individuals. Still others said they did not understand why YAS was looking to purchase the property on Dodge Circle when the nonprofit could use the $2 million designated for a facility to build a new space in a zone where no conditional use permit would be required.

Following deliberation, the commission rejected the request on the grounds that it would “adversely affect the established character” of the neighborhood, and that “unified dissent of the neighborhood indicated high potential for disharmony.” The panel also identified the potential for disharmony as an impact on the program’s ability “to meet its stated purpose.”

 

Short-term rental permits

Two conditional use permits for short-term rentals were issued on unanimous votes of approval.

One was for a single family house at 501 Sawmill Creek Road in the R-2 multifamily residential district. 

The house — which belongs to applicant Ramon Quintero — is Quintero’s permanent residence. He said he has purchased a trailer that he is fixing up to live in during the summer. He said he is saving for retirement and will rent out the trailer long-term in the off-season.

Quintero is also the owner of a large house on Monastery Street. In answer to a question from a commission member, Quintero said he operates it as a long-term rental and doesn’t live there.

From the public, Thad Poulson, owner of a duplex across the street from 501, expressed concern about the displacement of long-term rentals in Sitka by the conversion of entire houses to STRs. He questioned the planning department’s finding that the density of short-term rentals near 501 was “moderate,” when there are numerous others in the immediate area.

Quintero’s permit request fits within the guidelines recently passed by the Assembly in an attempt to control the proliferating number of short-term rentals in Sitka, notably that the property must be its owner’s primary residence 180 days of the year. 

After granting Quintero’s permit request, the commission requested an agenda item for a later date to discuss density limits for short-term rentals. 

Another conditional use permit for a short-term rental was issued to Meggan and Sheldon Turner, for their property at 109 Sand Dollar Drive, in the R-1 single-family and duplex residential district.

The Turners said they would like to rent out part of their home during the summers. 

The property has an apartment, where the family will live when the rest of the residence is rented short-term and they are in town.

The Turners asked for a maximum occupancy of 12 guests in their permit, but agreed to the commission’s reduction to eight adults. The applicants said they had hoped the property would appeal to families, and could comfortably host two couples and their children.

One written comment was submitted by a neighbor not in favor of the short-term rental, which will be the second on the street.

 

GIS tutorial

Following the evening’s regular business, Ainslie gave a short tutorial on the city’s new geographical information system technology.

Among other features, it has a tool to show how properties are zoned. No special program is required, and access is free.

It has the same features as the city’s old technology — MainStreetGIS — which was recently acquired by CAI Technologies. The new system is available online at AxisGIS.com/SitkaAK, or by a Google search for “Sitka GIS.”

 

 

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AK COVID-19

At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.

 

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20 YEARS AGO

February 2004

Photo caption: White Elephant Shop treasurer Ginny Cushing presents a $1,300 check to Monica Bettis, Sitka Community  Hospital long-term care activities director, and Kathy Inman, long-term care manager at the hospital. The donation is to be used to buy a wide-screen TV for the long-term unit.


50 YEARS AGO

February 1974

Photo caption: Gov. William Egan presents trophies to the all-tourney team in the Sitka American Legion Invitational Basketball Tournament. From left are Brad Sele, Klukwan; Gene Short, Ketchikan; David Harnum, Sitka Arrowhead Truckers; Terry Friske, Klukwan; and Jay Levan, Sitka American Legion.

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