Girdwood residents numbered over 100 at the Anchorage Assembly meeting of December 6th. This was despite the blizzard occurring outside and what would become the beginning of 3 storms nicknamed “Snowmageddon.” The range of testifiers spanned a vast demographic from young adults to retirees, service workers to credentialed professionals. The vast majority spoke in favor of development but voiced unease that the Holtan Hills project, as currently envisioned, would help the Girdwood housing crisis. Many residents held signs that said, “Listen to Girdwood” and “Public land should equal public benefit.” The testimony went late into the evening and was postponed to a special meeting regarding this agenda item only.
Just five days prior to the December 6th public hearing, a new substitute version (or S-version) was put forward for the ordinance, which outlines the disposal of the 3 large tracts. The most substantial change was an addition of a lot to be reserved for Girdwood. It reads, “One multi-family lot to be drawn from HLB’s portion of profits will be designated for future disposal to a Girdwood housing authority, if and only if a housing authority entity is established which can legally receive and own property, and if and only if the housing authority is established within five years of this disposal. Otherwise, the multi-family lot reverts to Heritage Land Bank ownership.” It is important to note that Girdwood does not have a Housing Authority, nor does the Municipality of Anchorage have one.
At the special meeting held December 13th, hours of testimony continued to express concerns about the project. Examples included questions regarding the fiscal burden the municipality is taking on via the joint venture, developers competing against the municipality, process missteps, lack of affordable housing and proper planning, among others. The meeting went nearly 4 hours long and once again, not even historic snowfall occurring outside would stop Girdwood residents from coming to testify.
In final comments of the Special Meeting Assemblymember Forrest Dunbar stated, “I want to thank the folks that testified today and earlier. Despite the obvious passion that people brought, it was incredibly respectful and substantive public testimony. One of the best I’ve encountered on this body and in almost seven years. I really appreciate the specifics that a number of folks in the community came forward with.” Dunbar has since resigned from the Anchorage Assembly and is now representing District J, East Anchorage in the State Senate. He has since been replaced by Assemblymember Joey Sweet.
On December 20th, a new substitute S-1 version was introduced by Assemblymember Meg Zaletel. In reference to the community lot (1 lot out of 52 lots), the ordinance had been amended to: “At least one multi-family lot for the development of at least 8 units to be drawn from HLB’s portion of profits will be designated for future disposal to a Girdwood housing trust or non-profit entity for the purposes of developing community housing for residents, if and only if a housing trust or entity is established which can legally receive and own property, and if and only if the housing trust or entity is established within five years of the recording of the plat for Phase I of Holtan Hills Subdivision entitlements being complete on the parcels. Otherwise, the multi-family lot reverts to Heritage Land Bank ownership;”
Anchorage Assemblymembers came to Girdwood for an in-person and hybrid worksession held at the Gerrish Library Community Room on January 6th. Girdwood Board of Supervisors Mike Edgington and Jennifer Wingard explained the concerns regarding the project, disposal, and the S-1. Emma Kramer represented the Holtan Hills Housing Advisory Committee. Ms. Zaletel asked questions about the community lot to Adam Trombley, Mayor Bronson’s Chief of Staff and lead for the Holtan Hills project. It was clarified that the community lot would only be transferred to a local entity if Phase I produced a profit and not until all other lots had been sold. Chris Constant encouraged the transfer to be noted on the title, rather than only in the ordinance. Even though no participation from the public was allowed at the worksession, many Girdwood residents attended and listened in on the discussion.
At the January 10th Assembly Meeting, the agenda item was postponed until February 7th. This meeting marked Assemblymember Jamie Allard’s last meeting, as she moves to represent District 23 Eagle River in the State House. Her seat has since been filled by Assemblymember Robin Dern.
On January 16th, Girdwood Board of Supervisors passed a Resolution stating “WHEREAS, in its current unamended form GBOS determined by a vote of 5-0 that the S-1 does not provide adequate guarantees that the core needs for community housing in Girdwood will be advanced by this project;” and requested the disposal “be postponed until adoption of the 2023 updated Girdwood Area Plan.”
With two new Assemblymembers becoming appointed in the last month, we encourage those to reach out to Mr. Joey Sweet and Ms. Robin Dern, who may have missed out on hearing the Girdwood community testify, or previous emails sent out.
Girdwood Inc continues to follow this historic land disposal and will continue to provide updates, summaries, and links to more information on our website. Additional links and videos below.
January 6, 2023 – Worksession No. 3 re Holtan Hills, AO 2022-103 Competitive Disposal of HLB Parcels to CY Investments