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Roads ordinance gets makeover

New substitute proposed for subdivision constuction standards

Posted: Friday, February 01, 2008

There is a new wrinkle in the yearlong debate over how to ensure that new subdivision roads are built to borough standards.

Assemblyman Gary Knopp, of Kalifornsky, has proposed a new substitute for Ordinance 2007-33. His is the second substitute for the original ordinance.

A substitute sponsored by Borough Mayor John Williams and Assemblywoman Milli Martin of Diamond Ridge was the subject of wholesale changes at the Jan. 22 assembly meeting. Members voted to postpone final action on that version until Tuesday's meeting in order, some members said, to digest newly passed amendments.

The Williams-Martin version essentially would require developers to build subdivision roads to borough maintenance standards prior to final plat approval when those subdivisions are within 330 feet of a borough- or state-maintained road. Other provisions allow for phased projects and exemptions from building roads prior to final plat if coupled to formal subdivision agreements with the Road Service Area and financial guarantees.

Now, Knopp, who said he is concerned about loopholes and unintended consequences arising out of the first substitute version, has sponsored his own substitute. It would, among other things, eliminate subdivision agreements and financial guarantee provisions, which he said were unnecessary given the existence of other parts of the borough code that can ensure roads are built to standards.

Put simply, Knopp's version requires the RSA to certify to the planning department prior to a plat getting final approval that either roads in rights of way meet borough standards, or that there are no constructed roads in the rights of way proposed by the final plat.

Roads built later within an approved plat would have to be built to borough standards.

That, he said, would ensure against the borough assuming maintenance duties for roads not built to standards, while also being more financially lenient on small-time developers, such as homesteaders facing rising taxes and inflation who may want to subdivide and sell off small portions of their property. It would allow such developers to work out deals with buyers regarding roads.

"It's a little looser than the original 2007-33," he said.

Another difference has to do with how far subdivisions are from maintained roads. The Williams-Martin substitute requires connecting roads from subdivisions to maintained roads within 330 feet and that all subdivision roads be built to standards. The ordinance says nothing about the final condition of roads within subdivisions developed beyond 330 feet.

"I could go out 331 feet and build 200 lots any way I want," Knopp said.

He said his version addresses that issue by tightening up the distance requirements. Subdivisions within 330 feet would still be required to be built to standards. However, other provisions would require specific levels of roads at greater distances.

Subdivisions ranging from 10 to 20 lots within 630 feet would be required to build Category 2 roads (24-foot-wide), those within 960 feet with 21 to 50 lots would need Category 3 (26-foot-wide) roads and subdivisions within 1,860 feet of a maintained road having more than 51 lots would require Category 4 roads (28-foot-wide). In all cases, the developer would be required to build connecting roads to borough standards as well.

Knopp said he believes developers of larger subdivisions would be financially better equipped to cover such costs, and that larger subdivisions could reasonably be expected to demand more in services from the borough.

On the other hand, he said he thinks his approach would ease financial burdens on the smaller developer.

He also said his version relies on existing borough regulations and that once a right of way is dedicated, a permit to build a proper road would be required.

Knopp worries that the wrong ordinance could stop developments from happening. In 1998, he said, an ordinance was adopted requiring roads be built to standards. The next year, the assembly repealed it because development slowed, he said.

Knopp said he wrote the new version because he was leery about making it mandatory that roads be built to standards before a final plat was approved.

"On the other hand, I don't think the borough should be accepting substandard roads," he said. "This does away with financial guarantees and agreements. It all runs through the permitting process."

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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