Rezoning a Small Piece of Land Has Become a Complicated Issue for the Borough

110 Bancroft Dr. has been vacant for awhile and its owner wants to rezone it. (Photo by Mitch Borden/KMXT)

Mitch Borden/KMXT

You might think rezoning a vacant lot would be a simple process. But for the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly, making a decision to turn one slice of land at the edge of a neighborhood into a business property is turning out to be tough — and divisive.

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The proposed rezoning of 110 Bancroft Drive from residential to commercial hasn’t turned out to be a simple decision for the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly. The parcel of land is on the edge of Mill Bay Road, which is the City of Kodiak’s main business channel. But it’s also part of a residential cul-de-sac. The prospect of having a business at the entrance to the neighborhood isn’t popular among its residents. At all.

The assembly held a public forum on the issue at its last regular meeting on October 5th. The borough’s planning and zoning commission, which advises the assembly, supports the rezone, but all of those who testified at the forum were against it.

Sandy Pherson lives on Bancroft. She says she and many of her neighbors have stated clearly that they’re against the rezone, but Pherson doesn’t feel like the borough’s taking them seriously.

“Our comments seem to be glossed over and dismissed since the lot meets x, y, and z. If that’s the case why does the borough even ask for comments.”

Assemblyman Dennis Symmons says he’s sympathetic to those who live on Bancroft and are against the rezoning. But he believes that it’s not the assembly’s place to tell James Cole, the owner of the property, what to do with his land.

“To me, it’s a constitutional violation to deny this person a right to do with this particular piece of property what he wants to do.”

That interpretation didn’t go over well with Assemblyman Larry LeDoux.

“To say that the constitution gives a right to do anything on your land that you want. I don’t think anybody really agrees with or you wouldn’t have a planning & zoning commission in the first place.”

Assemblyman LeDoux thinks the residents near 110 Bancroft have made themselves clear. They don’t want the property rezoned and they have their reasons. He believes that if the assembly approves it, it’ll essentially be telling Kodiak residents it doesn’t care what they think.

“We’re telling people then at the same time that their voice really doesn’t matter.”

The seven-member assembly is divided — for now — on whether to rezone the parcel of land. And to make matters worse there’s a legal complication to the situation. The owner of the property, James Cole, may not own it — at least not officially.

Sarah Mason, the borough’s community development director, told the assembly at its last meeting that Cole does seem to own the property. He has proof — a signed statutory warranty deed, but he hasn’t filed the deed with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Recorder’s Office.

That means the state hasn’t registered Cole as the owner of 110 Bancroft Dr. In fact, the borough’s website still lists the last owner as the current one. It’s an unusual glitch. Mason says the borough’s never faced one like it.

“In cases like this we don’t have a definition for what property owner means, but our code does say that for the purposes of amendments and changes only the property owner or an authorized agent may make the application. So I’ll leave it to you guys whether you want to interpret Mr. Cole as the property owner.”

Given the situation, the assembly voted 4-2 to postpone its rezoning decision for 110 Bancroft Dr. until its October 19th meeting. That’s when another public forum will be held on the issue. Assemblyman Larry LeDoux and Dave Townsend voted against the postponement. Assemblywomen Rebecca Skinner was not present at the meeting.

In the meantime, borough staff plans on investigating the legality of Mr. Cole’s application for rezoning.

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