The Kodiak Island Borough has granted the city a conditional use permit to continue a quarry construction on Near Island that began in 2009. The city applied for the permit after realizing it had been digging into the conservation zoning district, which requires special permission for certain land uses. Attorney Jill Wittenbrader is one of the people who spoke up at the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing several weeks ago.
“The borough code sets out certain parameters that a conditional use permit must fall into and so the conditional use permit is supposed to be granted if it’s consistent with the nature and character of the surrounding land for instance, and I set forth my testimony at that hearing that I did not think it was consistent with the nature and character of the surrounding land.”
Development on the area has gained a lot of attention especially due to the trail near its boundaries. Wittenbrader says while the public uses Near Island for recreation, the area is not reserved for that purpose, which she says is something city representatives have stressed in meetings with her.
“There is no park land designation, really, through the borough, so when you go to North End Park, or you go to Rotary Park or you go to South End Park, we think of them as parks, and sometimes there’s even signs there saying they’re parks, but there’s nothing even formally designating them as parks beyond maybe a resolution or something.”
Wittenbrader says some of her concerns are about safety.
“I think the city’s looking at a real liability if somebody gets hurt. There’s blasting going out there without signage, without fences posted. There’s cliffs that people could fall off of. I mean, it’s really a dangerous situation,” she says. “I don’t want to advocate that the recreational use be limited, but I think it’s a little bit of a cowboy operation going on.”
Wittenbrader says the P & Z Commission put certain conditions in place, including installing signs and a fence, and restoring some of the vegetation surrounding the site. She says she’s met with various local government representatives and they agree that Near Island’s natural attractions and its harbor uses are important.
And she says they’re listening to the public.
“Many people were concerned. I feel like the Planning and Zoning Commission got that message. I’ve given public comment to the city council. I feel like the city council really gets the message. In the response that I received from them, I felt like they are really concerned about the situation that’s going on and how it’s kinda come about. They say that they’re interested in basically doing the right thing and making it right, and I just hope that there’s follow through on that.”
She says she met with the city manager and mayor about a week ago.
“They stated that this firm is coming down to take public input and public comment and review the plan for Near Island, so that is expected to be occurring this fall, so I would encourage people to submit written or public comments when that opportunity arises.”
The city council’s next work session is scheduled for September 9 and its next regular session for September 10.