City planners look at easing up on land use restrictions
People who went before the city planners seeking to use their property to suit themselves found smooth sailing in the panel’s Aug. 30 meeting.
Some commissioners voiced a willingness to be flexible in zoning to accommodate landowners.
The Nome Planning Commission held four public hearings on land questions after notifying the neighbors by registered mail. Unimpeded by any protests, the group voted unanimously to approve variances, a zone change and a couple of subdivision plats.
The commission has approved a preliminary plat for Satellite Field, a major subdivision filed by Alaska Gold for property at Camp Five along the Nome-Teller Highway that includes the softball field.
The main purpose for the subdivision was to separate, make available and allow the Softball Association to buy the adult softball fields and relieve Alaska Gold of liability.
The action would also yield opportunity for the sports group to obtain additional funding.
Next, the council has approved a Phase 2 final plat application for Nome 21st Century Subdivision, a major subdivision. Currently city utilities are not in place for the subdivision, and are not proposed or included in the NJUS five-year master plan. Responsibility for water and sewer services would fall on the purchasers of the large commercial lots. Percolation tests have not been performed. These tests must be performed to prove the soils unsuitable for onsite systems before state Dept. of Environmental Conservation would allow holding tanks on the lots, according to John Blees, acting city engineer. Alaska Gold owns the 104-acre subdivision at the intersection of Nome-Teller Highway and Greg Kruschek Avenue.
The action approving Nome 21st Century Subdivision will allow current renters by City Field to purchase the properties.
The commission voted unanimously in favor of changing the old Norton Sound Hospital site from General Use to Commercial zone designation.
According to Donald Olson, that action would enhance the possibility that he and co-investors Jim Gribbens and Susan Nowland could sell the property. With the commission’s approval, the issue will go to Nome Common Council for approval. Norton Sound G-O Development has attempted to market the building locally and statewide for three years, without serious bites, Olson said. He attributed lack of interest to lack of commercial zoning and expanded legal uses.
“A large vacant building is a magnet for vandalism,” Olson noted, and time is of the essence, with the aspect of additional vandalism and the potential of moisture damage. “Once mold sets in, it almost never leaves,” Olson told the Commission. “It’s a bad spot to be in. “In 30 days there will be ice on the ponds,” he said.
In other actions, the commission approved three separate variance requests to improve access to Pioneer Igloo No. 1 and private property belonging to Nancy L. McGuire. The commission allowed fewer than 10-foot street setbacks in both cases. The Pioneers clubhouse needs a wooden stairway on its ramp to make the access to the south side front door safer for elderly Pioneers to attend formal meetings, which occur only during icy months.
McGuire needed a wheelchair ramp for safe access to her home at 310 West First Avenue. The alteration does not encroach on property not her own, but abbreviates the 10-foot setback requirement.
A third variance request dealt with land between the Lomen Avenue residences of Pat Hahn and Gladys West. The commission approved a setback issue concerning the lot lines of both addresses.
During commissioners’ comments section at the end of the meeting, Commissioner Ken Hughes commended the Nome Volunteer Fire Dept. for rapid responses to fires.
“Demand for fire protection is being met,” Hughes observed. “Demand for dust control is NOT being met.”
The need for controlling Nome’s clouds and swirls of street dust could be better met if he Nome Common Council gave the situation higher priority, Hughes added.
Dust control and housing [shortages] were contributing to our town not being able to keep professional people in town long-term, and holding Nome back from progress and growth, Hughes said.
Commissioner Derek McLarty followed up on Hughes comments concerning dust with a suggestion that larger trucking operations include tire-washing facilities.
“Let’s nip it in the bud before we take it down the road,” he suggested. McLarty also applauded commission action in approving the variance and rezone requests, giving folks a little more breathing room with zoning.
“I’m glad we got citizens’ concerns taken care of—a lady being able to get into her home and Sen. Olson getting vacant property going a good direction,” he said.
He favored adjustments on a case-by-case basis, “instead of changing all the zones to try to be perfect. There needs to be [flexibility], if it doesn’t bother the community—for economic and personal growth.”
The commission has vowed to take a comprehensive look at the zoning grid set in 2008 to see where the plan needs adjustments.