Borough Assembly and City Council Still at Odds Over Building Code

logo-w-sunburstKayla Desroches/KMXT

After two hours of impassioned discussion, the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly decided to postpone a decision that would have put it back in line with the Kodiak City Council.

Last summer the assembly frustrated the council when it reverted to the 1997 uniform building code in order to relax code requirements for homeowner builders in the borough.

The two governments share one building department through a memorandum of agreement and the switch put the borough at odds with the city, which uses the 2012 international building code. As had the borough before last year.

City employees pointed out that the use of different codes creates problems in insurance and emergency services, among other concerns. The council threatened to break the MOA, but at the same time stated a willingness to work with the assembly in order to preserve it.

At a regular meeting Thursday night, the borough assembly once again looked at a version of an ordinance that would have switched the borough back to the 2012 code with exemptions for certain single-family residences. The ordinance is meant as a compromise.

The assembly had appeared close to reaching a consensus in past meetings, but at the assembly meeting some assembly members expressed dissatisfaction with the need to meet the city’s requests. Assemblyman Dave Townsend said property owners should be able to build what they want.

“This is just another one of those things of the city trying to get their way and force what they want us to do, and that’s not what the citizens of the community want. I’ve talked to many citizens and they want to not have their rights restricted.”

Assemblyman Kyle Crow also expressed frustration with the city’s ultimatum and the need for borough residents to meet certain code requirements.

“And I believe that the borough assembly has worked very hard and in good faith to work with the city to preserve our building inspection [MOA] and I hope that the city is willing to accept the borough’s adopted ordinance that allows its residents outside of the control of the city to opt out of the building codes should they desire to do so. If not, I don’t think that the borough has any option but to allow this relationship to expire and manage these services separately.”

Assemblyman Matt Van Daele suggested they pursue an alternative route that would allow them to ease code requirements.

“There is an undeniable need to have a productive, functional discussion regarding building codes here in Kodiak. But unfortunately, in my opinion, the current version four and the version two, it’s just not it. It’s a reaction to a perceived problem instead of being a plan for sustainable growth and future success.”

One solution he suggested was what he called a “homestead” zone, a new zoning district which would include large lots of several acres and a functional well and septic system.

Van Daele eventually made a motion to postpone further consideration of the main ordinance on the floor to the January 26 work session. That motion passed, which means the assembly will have another chance to make a decision on the ordinance again at its regular meeting on February 2.

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