Thank your for taking the time to read our fourth issue of Girdwood Inc’s newsletter! Girdwood Inc’s mission is to be “Girdwood’s partner in funding and leadership,” and has done so since 2004. For example, in late May, Girdwood Inc. in collaboration with Little Bears Playhouse, submitted an American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant request to help fund a new childcare facility. If you would like to voice your support for the Girdwood Workforce Childcare Project request, please email assembly members at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new era in Girdwood healthcare is coming to our community. In late June, the old Girdwood Health Clinic building consisting of the 1960s Girdwood post office and mobile trailers were demolished. Just a few days prior, clinic workers made the move to the new facility. The demoed materials are gone, and the second phase of the new clinic building is underway. Once completed, the facility will have over 7000 SF including 6 exam/treatment rooms, behavioral health space, meeting space, clinician workspace, a lab, a contagion-confined exam room and an x-ray room. The new building provides a prominent feature in Town Square and a permanent space for decades to come. Having a skilled staff and excellent facility, the Girdwood Health Clinic offers far more to family medicine than just emergency drop-in service, including a sliding fee discount program for patients with financial hardship. The clinic is currently looking to hire medical assistants. Those interested in future employment should check the website regularly for details and updates. (www.girdwoodhealthclinic.org)
Leading the charge at Girdwood Health Clinic as the Chief Medical Officer is Dr. Erin Lester, a full time Girdwood resident. Erin is married to Paul Forward, a fellow doctor and lead guide at Chugach Powder Guides. They have lived in Girdwood off-and-on for the last 9 years and became full time residents in 2017. Together they have a young toddler and are so happy to be raising him in Girdwood.
Erin has worked at Girdwood Health Clinic for the past 5 years. She has an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience from Washington State University and attended University of Washington School of Medicine through the Alaska WWAMI program. Erin then completed the Alaska Family Medicine Residency program. Prior to her work at the Girdwood Health Clinic, she practiced in Kodiak and at Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center.
We at Girdwood Inc look forward to seeing the clinic flourish with expanded space and staffing.
Significant movement has occurred on Holtan Hills since our last newsletter. Many individuals and business owners sent letters to Heritage Land Bank (HLB) and Girdwood Board of Supervisors (GBOS) requesting to include workforce housing as part of the project or suggested cancellation. The Girdwood Chamber of Commerce’s draft resolution passed at the June 13th Land Use Committee meeting 42 to 1. This resolution required that the current plan be amended to include workforce housing or should be terminated. The following week at GBOS, it was suggested that the resolution be postponed to re-word language in the offered resolution.
On June 14th, a joint Land Use Committee (LUC) and GBOS Town Hall was held, which focused entirely on Holtan Hills. This meeting was very well attended, with roughly 70 members in the community room and another 75+ online. The pre-publishing of the development agreement on the Girdwood Board of Supervisors website May 24th resulted in detailed questions from the public and many comments that called for workforce and affordability to be part of the development of Holtan Hills.
During the Town Hall, Connie Yoshimura discussed “more affordable condo units” to be included. The proposed units are three 8-plex buildings and would be part of Phase I. A member of the public asked what the price point would be for the 2-bedroom 900-1000 SF units and Yoshimura suggested $500,000 as the entry level price. When pressed on the price of the 6000-7000 square foot smallest lots, a price tag of $140,000-150,000 was given. There are 10 of these sized lots in Phase I. The developer and HLB suggested they work with 5 Girdwood residents on a working group. GBOS produced a letter which was sent to HLB and the administration, listing themes of various concerns raised at the GBOS/LUC Town Hall.
If workforce housing is included in the Holtan Hills project, at least a percentage of the land should require that properties are purchased with short term rental restrictions in the deed, so those who do choose to rent out their unit will do so on an extended basis. This is the only way housing sales can benefit most of Girdwood’s needed workforce. There is also a demand for apartments. Up to this point, the Holtan Hills project does not address either of these issues.
On June 23rd, HLB held their first meeting since March. Many Girdwood residents registered to speak during the public comment period. HLB Commissioners heard various concerns, demands and expectations. Ron Tenny, HLB Girdwood Representative, again expressed frustration that he was learning details of the development at the same time as the general public, including reviewing the development agreement. Brooks Chandler stated that “disposals are done by elected officials, not HLB staff.” HLB staff indicated they are planning for an August disposal and October sale. HLB Commissioner Brett Wilbanks, a Girdwood resident, requested an HLB work session be held on Holtan Hills.
On July 5th, GBOS formally created the Holtan Hills Housing Advisory Board. It was expanded to 7 members. The nominated members include: Dave Hamre, Nico Reijns, Emma Kramer, Erin Eker, Sam Daniel, Brooke Lavendar and Nathen Ellis. They have held two meetings thus far, with the next meeting scheduled for August 2, 2022 at 4:00 PM in the community room. Written comments will be directed to this committee by emailing email@example.com.
On July 18th, Girdwood Board of Supervisors passed the Chamber’s rewritten Resolution in Support for Amendment of the Development Agreement between Heritage Land Bank and CY Investments to Address Girdwood Community Housing Needs. The primary difference between the community-approved resolution, and the GBOS resolution, was the removal of the call for canceling the Development Agreement, should changes not be made.
Private residents asked Girdwood Inc to provide a summary and timeline of events regarding the RFP and the current Holtan Hills project. As a result of that request, a summary is posted on our website. Additionally, concerned citizens organized signs to raise awareness regarding the Holtan Hills project. Those organizing the sign effort ask that you email firstname.lastname@example.org, if interested in placing a sign on your property. If you are interested in donating toward the cost of the signs go to: https://gofund.me/39faa48e
An Assembly Member Listening Session sponsored by Girdwood Inc and Girdwood Chamber of Commerce was held on July 19th in the community room. The hybrid meeting had roughly 150 participants. Randy Sulte attended in person and Suzanne LaFrance had her aide listening in, as she didn’t have the cell service she expected to attend remotely. Speakers included a welcome by Dale Goodwin of Girdwood Inc, Lynne’ Doran of Girdwood Chamber of Commerce, Kathy Trautner of Girdwood Health Clinic, Camille Jones of Little Bears Playhouse, Terry Sherwood of Girdwood Chapel/Food Pantry, Michelle Weston of Girdwood Fire Department, Emma Kramer and Brooke Lavendar of Holtan Hills Housing Advisory Committee. Many questions generated by members of the public will be forwarded to Heritage Land Bank, Assembly Members, Holtan Hills Advisory Committee and other relevant administration leaders.
The next Heritage Land Bank Advisory Commission Meeting will be held Thursday, July 28, 2022 at 11:30 a.m. at the Permit & Development Center (conference room 170 – 4700 Elmore Road, Anchorage, Alaska) or via Microsoft Teams and telephonic hearing (907) 519-0237 Conference ID 870 029 831#. An update from HLB and Connie Yoshimura is on the agenda.
Winner Creek Bridge Update:
Girdwood Inc. advocates important highway, infrastructure, recreation and other projects. We are pleased to announce the Alaska legislature this session funded $1.2 million for replacement of the Winner Creek hand tram with a state-of-the-art suspension bridge. The replacement bridge, a Girdwood Inc priority, is part of the broader “Alaska Long Trail Project.” Girdwood Valley Service Area is expected to receive funds for construction and work to be done in 2023. We thank the legislature for this funding, with special Girdwood kudos to Representative James Kaufman, Senator von Imhof and Friends of Girdwood Trails, a Girdwood Inc sponsored organization. After completion, the Forest Service will service and maintain stewardship of the bridge.
Seward Highway Safety Projects:
Department of Transportation engineers recently met with Girdwood Inc to discuss improving the intersection at Alyeska and Seward Highway. As one example, the left turn by the gas station is problematic. With Seward Highway traffic expected to increase 5-7% each year for the next 5 years, Girdwood Inc believes we should support forward-thinking changes that will improve safety before the issues become worse. It takes years to make changes to transportation corridors. Still in a planning stage, we appreciate DOT’s outreach. They held meetings with Old Girdwood residents and are hosting a public meeting on Wednesday July 27th at 6:00 – 7:30 PM in the Girdwood community room.
Other priorities include improvements to the Seward Highway between Bird and Potter Marsh. The Governor’s proposed funding for these improvements has been approved by the legislature. This project is envisioned to include a separated bike lane all the way from Bird to Potter. When done, we will have a bike path all the way to Anchorage. Girdwood Inc advocates advancing the project ASAP since highway users are already adjusting to disruptions caused by important rock fall improvements.
Girdwood Community Land Trust:
One of Girdwood Community Land Trust’s (GCLT) main goals is to increase opportunities for Girdwood’s workforce with attainable housing options, which include the chance for ownership. Other resort communities have similar programs and have helped to mitigate some pressure from high market demand in these areas. There are over 200 CLTs in the nation and are increasing in popularity as a mechanism to solve housing and land-use issues. We at Girdwood Inc are excited about the opportunity to have our own Community Land Trust here at home and a passionate board involved in these efforts. Last month, GCLT obtained their own 501(c)3 status, after being a Girdwood Inc sponsored organization since late 2020. This is another example of how Girdwood Inc fosters up-and-coming endeavors to grow and flourish.
Community Land Trusts (CLT) have roots in the civil rights movement and have a unique structure with a “tripartite” board. It is created by 1/3 tenants, 1/3 community members (Girdwood area) and 1/3 elected officials, non-profit leaders or subject area experts.
Girdwood Community Land Trust has spearheaded several resolutions for additional recycling options and zoning (Jan/Feb 2021), Girdwood Community Garden location and zoning on public land (June/July 2021), and obtained a Resolution of Support for Grants and Funding (Nov. 2021) from LUC & GBOS. Girdwood CLT’s 9-member board helped to kick-start last year’s farmers market and are the primary vendor organizer for this year’s Girdwood Farmers Market, which occurs every other Sunday in Town Square. The markets encourage positive economic development for small businesses to sell their goods, encourage access to healthy organic foods and a stage for musicians to share their talents. (Upcoming Dates: July 24, August 7, August 24)
Girdwood Community Land Trust board members realize that they will not be able to solve Girdwood’s housing issues by themselves but feels strongly that local-land management is a key part of the solution. Learn more and become a member at www.girdwoodlandtrust.org to support these efforts.
Thank you for attending our Summer Solstice Dance Party Fundraiser!