Members of the Assembly must have all their Christmas shopping and chestnut roasting out if the way because they have scheduled an action packed agenda for their regular assembly meeting Tuesday December 20th. And since a regular meeting isn't enough fun 5 days before a very large man in a red suit comes calling they are extending the entertainment by having a special meeting starting at 3:30pm the same day to address Ordinance Serial No. 11-072: AN ORDINANCE REPEALING MSB TITLE 27 AND ADOPTING MSB TITLE 16, SUBDIVISIONS.
But what it really should be called is the Bad Road and Taxpayer Exploitation Act. And here's why.
Subdivision code guides how our communities and our neighborhoods develop. It affects the quality of our roads, emergency access, suitability of soils to accept effluent without entering the water table, inter-connectivity of our transportation system, provision for utilities, and so on…… countless ways that the code affects our day to day lives, and our wallet. The Assembly is undertaking an overhaul of the subdivision code. Maybe the Assembly calls it “overhaul.” Most, though, call it “gutting.”
One would think that something this complex and with such far-reaching effect on the citizens of the Borough would warrant much thought and care, with broad public participation and plenty of time to understand and consider the ramifications.
Unfortunately, the Assembly is proceeding with very little chance for the public to participate or be heard; except for the Mat-Su Business Alliance. The Mat-Su Business Alliance has proposed a new subdivision code, and it is that version that is currently before the Assembly. We wonder what became of the recommendations of the Planning Commission. We wonder what became of the recommendations of the Platting Board. We wonder why the Road Service Area Boards, the Fire Service Area Boards, the Community Councils have not been informed and asked to participate. Here are a few tidbits:
1. Relaxed subdivision road standards means bad roads (you know…. mud holes, bad drainage, poor road material, etc.), which the taxpayer must ultimately pay to fix, while the subdivision developer enjoys umbrella drinks in Vegas.
2. Relaxed standards for ensuring proper easements and constructability for utilities raises the specter of future need for utility relocation, at potentially significant cost to the taxpayer.
3. Reducing public notice and comment period to 15 days from 21 days means that the public, in particular the Road Service Area Boards, the Fire Service Boards, and the Community Councils, is, as a practical matter, deprived of the opportunity to be heard on Platting actions. [due to meeting schedules, mailing time, need for receipt of comments by Platting in time to prepare the packet, etc.]
4. The current version of the Bad Road and Taxpayer Exploitation Act, specifically allows an “unlimited” number of “serial waivers.” Let me explain: A Waiver Subdivision (referred to as “waiver”) is the division of a single lot into up to four lots, as allowed under Alaska State Statute, where normal subdivision rules are “waived.” A “serial waiver” is a series of waivers of previously waivered parcels, creating far more than the four lots. Serial waivers may facilitate the development of a full fledged subdivision without having to comply with normal subdivision development rules. This has the potential for significant negative impact to road quality, access, utilities… the full Monty. And, to boot, the practice of serial waivers, according to the Borough Attorney, is “illegal under state law.”
5. To make it all that much worse for the taxpayer… this serial-waiver-end-run-around-normal-subdivision-rules would be allowed WITHOUT PUBLIC NOTICE; NO NOTICE TO ADJACENT PROPERTY OWNERS, NONE TO ROAD SERVICE AREA BOARDS, NONE TO EMERGENCY SERVICES; NONE TO COMMUNITY COUNCILS.
6. The Assembly proceeds, making amendments piecemeal to specific sections of the proposed MSBA version of our subdivision code, without any apparent regard for how a particular amendment of one section may affect another section of the proposed code. The word “chaos” comes to mind. And it’s being done without really hearing from the public. No evidence that the Assembly cares much about coming up with a subdivision code that makes sense and where the public is well served. The Assembly is taking us down a very, very ugly road, and we are all going to be paying for it for years and years to come.
Those are some of the big reasons in a nutshell destroying yet another planning tool Title 27 is a awful idea. It’s like using a bulldozer when maybe a hand held hoe would remove a few weeds. It might serve as a economic stimulus tool for some developers and surveyors but to the rest of us it’s just a Bad Road and Taxpayer Exploitation Act. Use the links to the side of the blog and contact your assembly. And while you’re at it tell them your thoughts on mining in the gravel table since that will be back before them in this regular meeting later the same night.
You just can’t count on this assembly to be awash in holiday joy and reason to do the right thing for the folks of the borough. Even Santa would say that’s too much to wish for.