ZONING— City Planner Erin Reinders leads a discussion on the rezoning of Front Street during the Planning Commission work session on January 9.

Planning commission mulls rezoning Front Street

Before their regular meeting, the Nome Planning Commission discussed in a work session the rezoning of Front Street with City Planner Erin Reinders.
Reinders began by explaining the intent of the project, to encourage commercial use and development, some residential use and parking. The rezoning is intended to happen before the planned Port of Nome expansion is completed to help establish a flourishing downtown area in Nome.
Reinders explained in an email to the Nugget that previous zoning regulations were too restrictive and that the creation of this new district allows for more focused land use regulations.
One dimensional standard that is being considered is zero-foot building setbacks, which is unique to this zooming district.
In Reinders draft for the zoning ordinance she outlined the land uses, including residential, public, commercial and industrial.
“Tell me what you want to see. And if there’s question marks, then good,” she said. “If the end result is, you want to see duplexes on Front Street, then let’s explore allowing for duplexes,” Reinders said.
The commission discussed what the zoned area would look like, they agreed to not go past First Avenue but were unsure about how far to go east and west. Reinders said she will mockup some drafts the commission can look at during the next meeting and decide from there.
Planning Commission Chairman Ken Hughes asked Nome Common Council member Scot Henderson, who was sitting in the audience, for his opinion on the revitalization of Front Street.
Henderson said historically people associated Front Street with downtown and the port area is industrial.
 “This port project is going to dramatically change those boundaries. And so what used to be adequate room for, industrial, commercial things may start spreading,” Henderson said. He urged the commission to not being too restrictive about what kind of buildings can be placed on Front Street until the port is here and Nome knows what it looks like.
Nome Common Council member Mark Johnson, who was also in the audience,  said this could be a real opportunity for businesses to revive Front Street.
Reinders took into account what the commission and public had to say and said she’d be back with a more honed draft at the next meeting.

Historic Preservation Plan
During the regular planning commission meeting commissioners all expressed frustration in the delay of the City of Nome Historic Preservation Plan.
City Manager Glenn Steckman explained the Nome Common Council received feedback from local tribes that the plan wasn’t as “inclusive or accurate as it should be.”
Chairman Hughes said currently it should just be a draft, once the plan is adopted the city can get more money to fund it and adjust it from there.
Trinh Johnson stood up during the public comment period to inform the commission she applied to hold a position last year but never received a response.
Later during the meeting when deciding upon a set date for the planning commission to meet and discussing the difficulty with meeting quorum, Hughes brought up Johnson’s public comment about applying to the commission a year prior. “The problem with not being able to obtain quorum on the meeting date is more related to those two vacancies than it is to our schedule,” Hughes said.  
Steckman said it is the job of the mayor to appoint people to commission seats.
The commission agreed to keep their meeting date for every first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. and to make an effort to establish quorum.
Commissioner Greg Smith made a motion to send the mayor communications asking him for clarity on the process of membership to the commission. The motion was not seconded and died.
City of Nome’s lawyer Sam Severin joined virtually to give a presentation on training commissioners on open meetings in Alaska. This provided an opportunity for the commission to ask questions about their operations.
Severin clarified to the commission that hitting reply all on an email chain to inform other commissioners of meeting availability is okay as long as the discussion doesn’t move to topics meant for an open forum.   
Hughes referenced a document that stated three-days notice not including weekends or holidays as the requirement for notifying the public about an open meeting. “Which would mean our practice of not getting any notice out until the Friday before is too short, especially for city council meetings,” Hughes said.
Severin clarified that the actual statue of the law was vague and states “reasonable public notice” without any strict language, but three days is good guidance.
Hughes brought up another question about executive session regarding when and how it can be entered into and whether a vote is required. Hughes used the common council as an example in his question, going into a lengthy explanation of a situation that occurred the night prior in the council meeting, wondering what Severin’s thoughts were on the matter.
After a long pause Severin said, “After discussing the last question and then this, I’m starting to realize there’s a lot going on that I’m not aware of.”
Steckman cut off the lawyer to say “This is not appropriate. The purpose was to address this committee, it was not to address how the mayor and city council operate. You are, in my opinion, going way off base. Now, if you have concerns, send those to me. I think you’re getting way off when you’re starting to talk about how to manage the common council and their roles. This is a separate board from them.”
Severin continued his presentation without any more input from the commission.
Port Director Joy Baker addressed the commission for an update on the Port of Nome expansion project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning to release the project package for solicitation on February 1.  They’ve been trying to issue the packet since March of 2023. On January 23 and 25 there will be public meetings held at Old St. Joe’s to hear about the community’s vision for the port. Baker said the expansion project has construction beginning in 2025 and the completion of the first phase of three in 2028.
Building Inspector Cliff McHenry told the commission there were three buyers negotiating the purchase of the Nugget Inn. The building’s heat has been turned on and it’s been “cleaned out pretty good.”
The potential buyers are waiting for an assessment by the fire marshal and to get a better understanding of flood zone problems they could run into. They buyers do not live in Nome and have arranged to meet with McHenry once they’re in town.
McHenry also said the abatement list will be available in February.

The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762
USA

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

www.nomenugget.net

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