Contributed by Brian Endle, Candidate for Mat-Su Borough Assembly District 1
The reason I came to Alaska was to enjoy the freedoms of the last frontier. I wanted to get away from the government restrictions of the lower 48 and enjoy the freedom to hunt, fish and own unrestricted property. My wife and I invested in a property and worked hard to build our own home.
Shortly after our home was built, the Borough Planning Department, working through our community council brought a zoning effort called a ‘Comprehensive Plan’ to our community.
When I went to the council meeting, I learned that there were only fifteen people voting on the final measures of this eighty page zoning effort/plan without meaningful outreach to our community. When I notified my neighbors, our community became very upset at what this small borough-led group of citizens were doing. The more I investigated this, the more I discovered that this process was policy at the Mat-Su Borough. We were not the only community to experience this.
The Borough Planning Department worked with the Meadow Lakes Community Council to accomplish similar goals in that community. Fifteen people were voting to zone about 7,500 private property owners. They almost got away with it. Had it not been for some alert residents in Meadow Lakes, their community could have been zoned and most would not even have known about it. Some might say that this was a mistake. I sincerely doubt that. They don’t have to notify us properly, so they don’t.
Just about two months ago, the Planning Department struck again. This time, they are trying to control 50 to 100 feet of private shoreline property without letting you, the shoreline property owners, or your community council know about it. They went directly to the planning commission and are going to the assembly without community involvement.
Would you want the Borough taking ownership of 50 to 100 feet of your property? You’d own the right to pay taxes while they controlled what you could do with it through permitting controls.
The Riparian ordinance was passed down from the assembly to the planning commission for evaluation on May 16 and the planning commission struck it down unanimously due to lack of notification. I would think that something as important as the taking of land use rights would require significant notification. I would expect that the Planning Department would at least respect citizens’ rights enough to pay for a post card and a stamp to let them know that they were about to take some of our property rights away.
The Planning Department almost snuck this one through by calling it “Riparian Buffer Standards On High Priority Salmon Streams”. Many of us, like myself, would probably have no idea what Riparian means as they looked at the title of the proposed ordinance (16-051). “Riparian” comes from a Latin word meaning shoreline and the Planning Department wants to control yours. This isn’t the first time they’ve used words to hide their intent. They won’t call zoning by its proper name. They call it a SpUD (Special Use District). What correlation is there between a potato and zoning?
In my community council, Buffalo Mine/Soapstone, about 100 people in the 300 household community signed a petition stating that they didn’t know our community council was voting on a zoning effort. Meadow Lakes residents turned in a petition to the Planning Commission containing the names of about 700 individuals. Both zoning efforts were turned down by alert residents. Both times the Borough Planning Department was informed of what happened and how to fix it. However, they have chosen not to act upon it.
The fix to this is simple. Mail the residents before you change their land use and ask them if they want to conform to the ideas set forth by the Planning Department. If they want to conform, proceed with planning. If they don’t want to conform, stop the planning effort. For the record, the Borough did mail the residents of Meadow Lakes, but it was about 6 years prior to the vote on the zoning. This nonsense simply needs to be stopped.
When elected, I will work to preserve our freedoms, our property rights, our right to know and I will work to fix these problems.