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Chicago-based organization joins anadromous stream fight

Posted: June 11, 2013 - 10:28pm

Mail found in boxes around the borough last week included a national lobbyist take on the upcoming anadromous stream ordinance public hearing. The borough mayor’s office said much of what is posed on the mailer is simply not true.

The National Association of Realtors mailed copies of a post card with several claims that officials with the organization were unable to define or explain as fact based regarding the proposal to amend local law governing salmon bearing waters throughout the borough.

The borough assembly will hold public hearings on a pair of measures that would address the contentious anadromous stream habitat protection Ordinance 2011-12. Ordinance 2013-12, brought forward by assembly member Kelly Wolf, would repeal the anadromous stream ordinance. Ordinance 2013-18 was forwarded to the Kenai Borough Assembly in early spring following nine months of work by a mayor-appointed salmon habitat task force. A majority of the task force supported the measure, which would repeal and replace 2011-12.

In its mailer, the Chicago based National Association of Realtors claims that the stream ordinance: “Mandates a costly time-consuming and unnecessary ‘permit’ system for property owners, limiting the use and control that you have over your property; It would still make you liable for current and future increased property taxes based on the fully assessed but unusable values of your property; It creates an additional, unnecessary and costly layer of borough government oversight with no expertise or resources for enforcement; It will negatively impact the entire Kenai Peninsula as well as all of the west side of Cook Inlet.”

Paul Ostrander, chief of staff for borough Mayor Mike Navarre, said two points are factually incorrect and the last one requires a further explanation to make any sense.

“That’s false,” Ostrander said of claims one and three.

The cards were mailed from Virginia and paid for by the association’s national headquarters in Chicago. When the organization’s spokesperson in Washington D.C. was contacted she referred a list of questions to Michael Droege, the Anchorage based president of the Alaska Association of Realtors and owner of two real-estate offices on the Peninsula.

“Our mission is to protect private property rights,” Droege said.

Droege was unable say in dollars how much the permit system will cost landowners, but did say he doesn’t believe that it will cost nothing as claimed by the borough.

Anytime there is increased government involvement there is a cost associated with it, he said.

“We factor in the cost of compliance,” Droege said.

Under Ordinance 2013-18, Ostrander said, permits for any proposed work or development in the governed zones, within 50 feet of river and stream banks and lakeshores, are free. While there has only been one fine in the last 13 years, Ostrander said that there are hundreds of examples of the borough working with owners to clear up violations.

About 4,000 parcels are to be ruled under the law, if approved by the assembly; most of the land in the increased portion is undeveloped at the moment. The cost is expected to be about $8,000 annually. Outside city boundaries, there is very little in the way of regulation save for gravel pits and pig farms, he said.

There is indeed an enforcement mechanism that runs all the way through the hearing level, Ostrander said of the claim that the borough had neither the expertise nor ability to enforce the regulations.

Droege couldn’t give details of the negative effects to the Kenai Peninsula if the ordinance were to pass. He did suggest a negative impact on land values.

“You can also make the exact opposite argument,” Ostrander said. Providing an example, he said that the values along the Kenai River have not been reduced by nearly 20 years of similar regulation. Should a property be negatively impacted, property values for taxes are based on market sales; if the value goes down so do the taxes.

As now written, the ordinance allows a landowner to tear down and rebuild an existing structure in the zone and has removed references to “fish and wildlife and other natural resources” in favor of only salmon as the motive. About 200 streams have also been removed for lack of solid evidence of salmon. The final appendix of governed waters is due out this week.

“It balances the rights of property owners while protecting resources that belong to everyone,” Ostrander said.

Rather than flatly denying any use, if a landowner wants to do something in the zone that does not damage the salmon habitat then the law allows it. The ordinance, if approved, will still govern what people can and can’t do on their land inside the district — 50 feet from the bank of any waterway on the list. It is the nature of the law, which Ostrander described as “proactive.”

“If the desired action damages habitat then no,” he said.

Tens of millions were spent to restore the banks along the Kenai River when the original boundaries were set in 1996. Billions have been spent down south to rehabilitate salmon habitat in Washington state, Oregon and California. That money came from the taxpayers or individual landowners, Ostrander said.

When total costs to a community or state are considered where a retroactive habitat policy action has occurred, Droege said he wouldn’t speak to salmon habitat remediation costs seen in West Coast salmon states. Most people are “very respectful” with the development of land in Alaska and another layer of bureaucracy taking away property rights is not needed, he said.

“We are as concerned as anyone about salmon habitat,” Droege said.

Calling for the total repeal of Kenai Peninsula Borough Ordinance 2011-12, rather than accept the proposal forwarded by the task force, Droege said, “Alaska has adequate protections in place.”

Ostrander worked as facilitator for the task force, which included two assembly members. He wouldn’t predict the final assembly vote when it comes, except to say that he favors it and the mayor sponsored it.

“I expect the chamber to be full (for Tuesday’s hearing),” he said.

Reach Greg Skinner at

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AKNATUREGUY 06/12/13 - 05:38 am
REALTORS sound like .................

REALTORS sound like a bunch of little kids who can't get their way!

Now they have $$$$$$$ and big organizations out of Chicago, Washington, DC, Anchorage, etc. trying to tell Alaskans that they know best how to protect our waterfront habitat.......LOL!!
What a joke.

I wonder whose pocket Kelly Wolf is in?

Hopefully, the assembly will continue this issue and we can get Trout Unlimited, Sierra Club and some of the major conservation orginaztions involved.

“We are as concerned as anyone about salmon habitat,” Droege said..........Are you kidding me!!!! All these realtors care about is $$$$$$$$ in their pockets and getting more people from Anchorage to move down here to the Kenai Peninsula.

Droege said, “Alaska has adequate protections in place.” This is another misstatement by the REALTORS' organizations. Are you kidding me.............Alaska has almost no protections of our fragile habitat. Worse yet, we have a current governor and administration who condones the total destruction of our nsatural resources at the expense of big industry $$$$$$$.

Just take a look along the Kenai River in places where Glendas FREEKEN, Fred BRAUN and other realtors make their big $$$$$$$$...............look at the RECENT habitat destruction in the floodplain and subsequent flooding of the entire RIVER QUEST and CASTEWAY COVE subdivisions last Fall. The natural habitat has been totally destroyed in these areas and nothing is being done to protect the habitat.

drjofak 06/12/13 - 12:55 pm
Why would anyone listen to an Anchorage realtor

First, it is important to identify the two Peninsula real-estate offices owned by Michael Droege, the Anchorage realtor referenced in this story, and avoid these two agencies. Any realtor making the statements attributed to Mr. Droege is simply too misinformed and incompetent to use in a real estate transaction. Every industry study in the last thirty years demonstrates that reasonable land use regulations INCREASE, not decrease, private property values. Further, the primary purpose of the regulation is to protect water values and fish habitat which benifits everyone. The protection of private property values is an added bonus. So the question, what is this organization and why? The short answer, just another phony outfit collecting money at a national level and barking out the same old right wing talking points that no one believes, but which appeal to the uninformed nuts who keep sending in the checks. The problem here is this, our right wing nuts are in many cases knowledgeable about fish habits issues and the positive impact reasonable environmental regulations have had in preserving property and environmental values. Ask your realtor if he or she is a member of this organization, if so, find another realtor.

AKNATUREGUY 06/12/13 - 01:34 pm

I suspect Braun, Feeken and others are members also.

I think the Assembly has enough education to see through these realtors.

Unglued 06/13/13 - 09:02 pm
True to their code

From the NAR Web site (

"The core purpose of the National Association of REALTORS® is to help its members become more profitable and successful."

That says it all.

wilsonro 06/14/13 - 08:30 am

I think this ordinance stinks of government overreach and I’ am not a realtor, just concerned responsible land owner. You guys act like a bunch of whiners yourself, liberals have a unique way of putting the blame on a group that gets people’s attention away from the real matter, which is about everyday hard working people who have put blood sweat and tears into their property, to watch it become useless.

agabbywon 06/18/13 - 02:27 pm

Your the ONLY ONE that has it RIGHT. Sad to see what has moved up & into Alaska over the last 10 years.:(

BigRedDog 06/24/13 - 06:27 am
Chicago? Did somebody say Chicago?

That's the place with all those gun restrictions, right to where you can't defend a home invasion with more than a baseball bat! The thought might not linger long in the hearts of these city folk. Guns have been OUTLAWED for nearly 2 generations. So they can show life goes on w/o the right to defend yourself, your family, home, or neighborhood! But I couldn't live there and watch as gang violence activities happened all around. We don't know how good we got it!

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