Welcome to Issue VII of Girdwood Inc’s newsletter. With housing as a major need in our community, that will be the main focus of this issue.
On Tuesday February 7th, the Anchorage Assembly voted 7-5 to “indefinitely postpone” the disposal of the 3 large tracts to CY Investments, more commonly referred to as the Holtan Hills Project. The 3 parcels contained a total of 450 acres. Sixty acres would be removed from the 450-acre tracts and the remainder transferred back to Heritage Land Bank.
This decision came after over a hundred Girdwood residents came to testify on December 6th and the December 13th special meeting for continued testimony. It was postponed at the January 10th Assembly meeting to February 7th. The indefinite postponement means the item may not come back before the Assembly body, unless it’s been “substantially changed.”
Girdwood Community Land Trust has been working to secure South Townsite as a potential location. This is the area near the ballfield, and was once platted out as “the squirrel cages.” Meetings were recently held with the watershed department at the Municipality. The discussions raised serious questions as to if this was a viable location to develop. Due to flood plain constraints, building at the convergence of the two waterways (Glacier Creek & California Creek) may be a cause for concern. Any HUD funding is very difficult, if not impossible for getting grant and financing for flood plain areas. Although there is a section of this parcel outside of the 100- and 500-year floodplain (based on the 2009 FEMA maps), old documents discovered in a Girdwood crawlspace dating to 1969 show the entire south townsite under the flood plain. The municipal hydrologist discussed rivers changing course and direction as a common theme, and this section of land may be safe for the time being, but uncertain in the long term.
This means that going up valley to higher elevations is the most realistic and plausible location for long-term community expansion. Given this new information, Girdwood Community Land Trust is still interested in pursuing South Townsite as an area for arts, culture, temporary uses (non-permanent structures, such as yurts) and expansion of park areas.
What is next:
Girdwood needs more housing, especially workforce and affordable housing. Girdwood Inc would like to see a plan come forward that can be supported by our community and incorporates needs which have already been identified as well as thinking about growth into the future and appropriate conservation. Girdwood Community Land Trust, as a Girdwood Inc sponsored organization, has already been working on possible housing solutions. A presentation was given at January’s Land Use Meeting and included in the GBOS packet. Girdwood Inc is in support of Girdwood Community Land Trust’s vision of “community-led, community-owned development.”
Girdwood Community Land Trust is planning a Girdwood Housing Solutions Brainstorm and Social on March 11, 2023. The event begins at 6:00 PM in the Girdwood Community Room. Mocktails and appetizers will be provided. More details are available at www.girdwoodlandtrust.org. Those who are interested in providing input, ideas, suggestions or interested in engaging on Girdwood housing matters are encouraged to attend.
Housing Power for Girdwood Valley Service Area (GVSA) Ballot Measure:
We are approaching the April Anchorage municipal election and ballots will be mailed to voters in late March. This coming election is especially important to Girdwood because there is an initiative to establish a Girdwood Housing Power within the service area. This ballot item will be for Girdwood voters only.
A little background: Girdwood is unique across Anchorage for managing many of our own local services. This came about because we are so physically separated from the rest of Anchorage. Under direction of the elected Girdwood Board of Supervisors (GBOS), we have provided our own Fire, Roads, Parks & Recreation services for decades. In 2015, we voted to add a power to allow GVSA tax dollars to be spent on a Cemetery. Additionally, most of us remember the very close local vote in 2016 to provide police as a power of GVSA after the Alaska State Troopers left.
This Girdwood Housing power would be most like our existing Cemetery power. It provides the Girdwood Valley Service Area (GVSA) the ability to apply for grants, accept funds from other parts of the Municipal government, and use local property taxes to develop specific housing policies. For example, GVSA can hire and direct mountain resort housing experts, rather than through a contract written by other Municipal departments such as Planning. It also allows the GVSA to manage Municipal land, in the same way as Girdwood already manages land for its parks, roads and drainage services.
The upcoming 2023 Anchorage Municipal ballot will also have the typical mix of Assembly, School Board and GBOS elections, bond measures (most of which are not paid for by Girdwood property owners), and several ballot measures including a $25,000 increase in residential property tax exemption. Municipal vote-by-mail ballots will appear in our PO Boxes in late March.