Borough says fliers make false claims about zoning proposal

Posted: Monday, January 07, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A proposed plan to bring zoning to the most highly populated part of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough is still a month away from a public hearing, but it has already triggered a backlash among some residents.

On Friday, a group called the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Property Owners Association put out a flier warning residents that the borough is trying to take away their property rights.

Titled ''You Can Fight Back!'' the flier accuses the borough of trying to turn the Valley into a socialist state and urges residents to fight for a ''free America as envisioned by the Founding Fathers.''

''If you want to live in a socialist state where your life is planned for you by the government, stay home and do nothing,'' it says.

Pio Cottini, a board member of the association, said the group is simply trying to let people know about the plan. But borough officials say the flier is inaccurate and misleading.

Among other statements, it says that under the plan, borough residents would need a permit to grow a garden, raise animals for 4-H projects or build a greenhouse.

''It's just not true,'' said Borough Manager John Duffy. ''It's absurd. You won't be able to have a greenhouse without permission? Come on.''

Borough Planning Director Sandra Garley added that any language in the plan that could be interpreted as requiring permits for those activities will be changed.

The flier also states the borough is refusing to give members of the group copies of the plan. Borough officials have limited members to two copies a person, Garley said, but only after the group was given more than 600 copies.

The flier also gives the impression that the plan is a done deal instead of a work in progress, she said.

The borough is holding two public meetings this week on the plan and is taking public comment until Jan. 15.

The plan will be forwarded to the Borough Planning Commission, and if it is approved there, it will go to the Assembly. Public hearings will be held in both cases and the plan will likely be changed, she said.

The plan is still in draft form, she said.

The plan is the first such comprehensive zoning effort since the 1980s, when another proposed borough-wide zoning plan led some people to burn then borough manager Gary Thurlow in effigy. Since then, borough officials have trod lightly in making new rules for regulating development.

While the cities of Palmer, Wasilla and Houston all have traditional zoning, development in areas outside the cities is subject to few restrictions. Those include about half a dozen types of development, such as racetracks, halfway houses and adult-oriented stores that require permits from the borough.

The proposed zoning plan would change that by creating residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial districts, among others.

Existing businesses and operations would be grandfathered in under the plan, Garley said.

The borough is the fastest-growing region in Alaska and borough officials have struggled to deal with battles over developments such as a racetrack and gravel pits built near homes, she said.

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