Rural Leaders Seek Better Communication on Land Use Issues

Borough Mayor speaks to attendees at the Kodiak Archipelago Rural Regional Leadership Forum. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Borough Mayor speaks to attendees at the Kodiak Archipelago Rural Regional Leadership Forum. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kodiak’s rural leaders and the Kodiak Island Borough are striving to improve communication on land issues that impact the island’s communities.

The borough has jurisdiction over land use matters around the island and all the action happens in the city of Kodiak. That means community representatives often need to make an extra effort to overcome the physical distance.

That was one of the topics on day one of the Kodiak Archipelago Rural Regional Leadership Forum.

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During the meeting, one Kodiak city resident spoke about a discussion from earlier that day, where Larsen Bay residents expressed concern about several nonresidents’ attempts to make land changes in order to establish lodges.

Native Village of Afognak councilmember, Natasha Hayden, took the mic to speak to borough employees and assembly members about what she felt it was vital for them to understand.

“Not so much that we’re concerned that people are bringing themselves into compliance but instead have the borough assembly and the planning and zoning people and staff have an understanding that it’s already been happening against the wishes of the residents, and for them just to be handed compliance is not what the people would like to see.”

Borough mayor Dan Rohrer said that the assembly has seen several letters against those land use changes, which typically end up before the Planning and Zoning Commission.

He said an official statement or vote from a governing body has even more political strength.

“What’s difficult sometimes is to know – is that the opinion of some of the people in Larsen Bay, all of the people in Larsen Bay? But a way for us to know that is when it’s something that comes officially from the City of Larsen Bay’s government or from the tribal organization as well… or both, which would be in the ideal world, it’d be both. I think that just lends an awful lot of strength and credence to it.”

Borough manager Michael Powers explained the perspective of the borough staff, which he said looks at logistics and land use compatibility

“We can’t say, sorry, we think your lodge is unpopular in your community, we’re not gonna take your permit. We obviously wouldn’t do that. So, we have to process their permits, but the political side where the decision is made is where the community needs to get involved.”

He the assembly and P & Z handle the politics.

Assemblyman Larry LeDoux said he hears the villages’ desire for a bigger say in the zoning and land use policies in their villages, and ultimately, it’s up to the communities to do that.

“Since we have the leadership that’s now developed in each village, they need to come together and communicate to the borough and borough assembly members exactly what we need to do to facilitate communication and give ownership.”

Community representatives are in the city until Friday for the forum, which the Kodiak Housing Authority organizes annually. It includes a variety of different lectures and meetings, including updates from local politicians and fisheries professionals.

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