Issue V – Girdwood Holtan Hills on HLB Agenda for Disposal – Childcare & Library Boosters Updates

Girdwood Inc Newsletter – Issue V

Welcome to Issue V of the Girdwood Inc Newsletter! We would like to express thanks to the many members of the community who sent in letters of support for the Girdwood Workforce Childcare Project to assembly. We are very excited that these efforts have merited a $1.6 million dollar grant from the Municipality of Anchorage’s American Rescue Plan Act funds. Our assembly members, Suzanne LaFrance and Randy Sulte together brought an amendment for $100,000 of the funds to be made available right away for predevelopment work. The remaining $1.5 million will require a match. We will continue to pursue the goal of developing a new and safe childcare facility in the Girdwood valley. If you are interested in donating toward the building, please reach out to Girdwood Inc or Little Bears Playhouse at the information below. If any family, foundation or corporate sponsor brings a $1 million+ donation, they will be given naming rights for the building, which will be a legacy staple in the community for decades to come. We look forward to bringing you additional information on this project as it progresses.

Community Champion: Joan Lower

Joan Lower has called Girdwood home since 1979. She is currently the Little Bears Playhouse President and has served on the board since her children were Little Bears themselves, in the early 90s.

Joan earned a B.S. in Elementary Education from Louisiana State University and a Master of Education from University of New Orleans. She married her husband Jim in 1980 and together raised 3 children in Girdwood. Joan taught for several years in New Orleans and Anchorage before teaching for 31 years at Girdwood School Elementary. The last 21 years were spent as Girdwood’s Kindergarten teacher.

Joan works as the Event Coordinator for Our Lady of the Snows, where she books and manages weddings, receptions, and more. She enjoys working in her flower garden and her 2 pet pigeons, one of whom loves to photobomb zoom meetings.

It has always been her dream to see Little Bears Playhouse operate out of a modern, state-of-the-art building, with ample space to accommodate the need for childcare and early childhood education in our community. “Thanks to the efforts of many community members, that dream is in reach!”

Holtan Hills: Holtan Hills continues to be the largest matter facing our community. The Girdwood Board of Supervisors’ Holtan Hills Housing Advisory Committee (HHHAC) has held regular meetings in hopes of negotiating a development which can help address some of Girdwood’s needs and concerns regarding the project.

The HHHAC meetings have resulted in two important documents. One, is a list of concerns and questions discussed at previous meetings or written comments. The questions submitted to Girdwood Inc from the July 19th Assembly Member Listening Session were included and provided to the committee and relevant entity to respond. The committee has also created a document with specific requests to amend the development agreement. The committee intends to meet with developers and Heritage Land Bank on September 21st at 4:00 PM to discuss their response to these requests.

The following day, September 22, Heritage Land Bank has the disposal under “Proposed Action Items and Public Hearings” on their agenda. “HLBAC Resolution 2022-09: A resolution recommending approval of the competitive disposal of portions of HLB Parcels 6-011, 6-016, and 6-017, legally described as Tract I Prince Addition Alyeska Subdivision (Plat 87-131)(PID 075-311-04-000), Tract B Girdwood Elementary School Subdivision (Plat 85-38)(PID 075-031-32-000), and Tract 9A Section 9 Township 10 North Range 2 East (Plat 73-220)(PID 075-041-31-000), to CY Investments as described in the Development Agreement between the developer and the Municipality of Anchorage dated April 29, 2022, and amend the HLB 2021 Annual Work Program.”

“Community members are strongly urged to provide testimony. Anyone wishing to provide public testimony via telephone or Teams must email by 5:00 pm the day before the meeting. Please provide your name, phone number, and agenda item number/title for which you wish to provide testimony. The subject line should read “HLBAC Testimony.” All members of the public shall be muted until called on to testify.”

You can participate in person or online. If you are unable to attend, but want to express your thoughts to the HLB staff and commissioners, you can send an email to before Friday 9/16/2022 5:00 PM and ask that it is included in the commissioner’s packet.

These next few months will be very important to the future of this project. Before land can be disposed of, it will be voted on by the Heritage Land Bank Advisory Committee and must be approved by a positive vote at Anchorage Assembly. Make sure to follow Girdwood Inc Facebook page and website for important dates and meetings regarding this project.

Community Spotlight: A message from Gerrish Library and Community Room Boosters

“Girdwood is grappling with many issues right now and Gerrish Library is no exception. Recently Jamie White, Gerrish’s librarian and branch manager, took a position in Washington creating a vacancy. It came to our attention that the municipality intends to fill that position without meeting established standards and minimum requirements of a Master of Library Science degree (MLS). The position will be downgraded to more entry level requirements (BA and some experience). The Gerrish Library Boosters strongly oppose this move.

To the administration, an MLS means money, and the downgrade of Gerrish library manager is a money-saving move. For us, we see this as a threat to the vitality of the library and the community.

The library is a public manifestation and demonstration of what a local government can do. It is here for all of us. For most of us in Girdwood, the library is the center, the heart and soul of the community. It is dynamic and interactive. Our librarians are a pathway and funnel of knowledge, commitment, and services that help us thrive and enrich us. A librarian with an MLS brings this knowledge to the job.

We wish to keep Gerrish Library dynamic. Using the library is the best way to support the library. And providing a professional and qualified librarian is the best way Gerrish Library can serve the community.”

We hope you have been enjoying our newsletters and find them helpful in keeping the community informed on important matters. Until next time!

Donate toward Girdwood Workforce Childcare Project Building
Girdwood Inc: PO Box 1102 Girdwood, AK 99587
Little Bears Playhouse: PO Box 350 Girdwood, AK 99587


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Catching up on Girdwood. Issue IV

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                  

Community Champion:

Erin Lester

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. (

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.

Holtan Hills:

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

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, if interested in placing a sign on your property. If you are interested in donating toward the cost of the signs go to:

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. 

Community Spotlight:

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 to support these efforts.

Thank you for attending our Summer Solstice Dance Party Fundraiser!

Girdwood Assembly Member Listening Session

We are inviting you to a Girdwood Assembly Member Listening Session scheduled for Tuesday July 19that 7:00 PM in the community room. This event is hosted by Girdwood, Inc. and Girdwood Chamber of Commerce. Please join us for this important discussion with Randy Sulte and Suzanne LaFrance.

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A Summary of Holtan Hills:

Many people say, “I don’t know enough about what is going on.” We hope this summary will catch you up to speed on the series of events that have transpired and respective dates.

In April 2021, without consulting the Girdwood community, Heritage Land Bank released an RFP to develop 150 acres. The RFP did not appear on their annual work plan, which was adopted by assembly only 43 days prior to RFP release.

Initially, the RFP had a response time of about 38 days. Due to complaints from members of the public to assembly members regarding the rushed nature, the timeline was pushed back another 23 days. This is a total of 61 days from the RFP being published, to the time responses were due. Given the magnitude of project, and its affect and impacts on the surrounding community, this RFP seemed to move forward without public consultation with the Girdwood community.

Two responses were submitted. The winning RFP response was determined with a “Selection Committee.” This committee was chosen by HLB staff. It consisted of 9 members. 7 of the 9 were/are municipal employees or contractors. The selection committee received the proposals via email on Tuesday, June 15. The memo released June 29 includes “All members were able to join a call on June 22, except Mr. Romerdahl who received a verbal summary of questions and discussion immediately following the call from HLB Land Management Officer Shelley Rowton. Each member then provided their final scoresheets before Noon on June 23.” This means no individual who is not a municipal employee and lives in Girdwood Valley Service Area participated on the call. One member on the call had been a long-time resident of Upper Crow Creek and also been employed by Pomeroy (a proposal submitter), which should have been declared a conflict of interest, but was apparently not.

“All members of the Selection Committee ranked Pomeroy Property Development, Ltd and partners Seth Anderson, P.E. and CY Investments, LLC as the superior proposal. Both respondents to the RFP have been notified of the results, and negotiation with the Pomeroy partnership group will begin at the conclusion of the appeal window.” (Appeals were required prior to the submissions, or by the other applicant within days.)

A factor that has come up repeatedly, is the question if the development entity receiving disposal of land is different than who was awarded as winner per the memo. To the public, it appeared Pomeroy, Seth Anderson and CY Investments were partners, but as the project is proposed today, Pomeroy and Anderson are not involved. It appears CY Investments is the only entity involved with Holtan Hills, which is fundamentally different than having a vested business and stakeholder in the community no longer involved (Pomeroy) in the (now publicly known to be) around 90 acre development.

Per Anchorage Muncipal Code “The disposal responsibility of the Heritage Land Bank is, at the direction of the mayor and assembly, to convey from municipal ownership Heritage Land Bank land or interests in land which is not needed for specific public facilities or purposes. Each disposal shall be in the municipal interest, and based at or above appraised fair market value or for other equivalent municipal values or objectives, under the procedures specified in section 25.40.025.” All of the above events had been done under an Acting Mayor, who was most likely unaware of the lack of HLB’s community engagement with Girdwood, scale and potential impacts.

Days after holding the selection committee, head of HLB and the Real Estate Department, Robin Ward, retires. A new director for Heritage Land Bank steps in 7/1/2021.

The Girdwood Community struggled to understand what was happening. The winning RFP had many redactions, and it was difficult to discern basic information about the project. These included more than personal finances of the partners. Redactions included the entire concept site plan (page 50 & 51) among many other examples. HLB had developers sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), thereby veiling the project from the public further.

In August of 2021, Girdwood Housing Working Group, followed by Land Use and GBOS votes passed this Resolution, asking that attainable housing be included in the development agreement for the 3 parcels being offered for disposal.

September 16, a new Real Estate Director and head of HLB is named: Jim Winegarner.

After Winegarner is not confirmed, assembly member asks who is in charge of Heritage Land Bank during an assembly meeting, the administration responds it is Adam Trombley. Trombley begins to oversee HLB and Real Estate Department.

In December of 2021, at the same moment that Girdwood Fire Department chauffeured Santa Claus around Girdwood, HLB held a public meeting about Holtan Hills. Depite the conflict of time, 100+ residents tuned in to the meeting. Many concerns came forward and the evening’s questions were eventually cut short. (Click here to watch recording of this.)

Disposal of Holtan Hills appeared on the published January 2022 HLB agenda. Six of the seven commissioners were brand new. Prior to the meeting, the agenda item was pulled, but concerned residents of Girdwood still showed up and spoke during public comment.

Residents of Girdwood formed a grass-roots Town Hall at Girdwood Chapel to address the social impacts that Holtan Hills development would create. This meeting had 80 attendees, which included Randy Sulte and John Weddleton, as well as GBOS members present or listening online. This Town Hall was held February 12th 2022.

Another staff change at HLB. HLB Cancels April Meeting.

Heritage Land Bank and CY Investments sign Holtan Hills Development ​Agreement​ dated April 29, 2022. It appears HLB Advisory Committee did not participate in negotiations or possibly evening viewing the document until after it had been signed (or at all).

HLB Cancels May meeting.

In April/May 2022, the Girdwood Chamber of Commerce Resolution underwent 2 meetings with their membership and voted to put forward a resolution to amend the development agreement to include workforce housing or should be cancelled.

In May/June 2022 this resolution was presented at Girdwood Land Use Committee and Girdwood Board of Supervisors meetings.

At it’s second Land Use Committee meeting in June (where residents are entitled to 1 person 1 vote) on June 13 , it passed with a vote of 42-1.

The following day was a LUC/GBOS Town Hall regarding Holtan Hills. It was very well attended with at least 150 participants in person and online. It’s been described as “spirited.” The first hour is presentation from the CY Investments development team. The remainder is questions and comments from the public.

At the June 20 2022 GBOS meeting, Supervisors discussed the Holtan Hills Town Hall. During the Town Hall, it was suggested creating a group of 5 residents to work with the developers. The following notice was issued:

“The Girdwood Board of Supervisors is assembling a Housing Advisory Committee of
approximately 5 members. The Committee will be responsible for representing the
community interests with the developer and HLB who are developing Holtan Hills for
residential housing. Nominations for individuals to be considered for appointment to the Holtan Hills Housing Advisory Committee should email their resume to:
Nominees must be eighteen (18) years of age or older and
a) a current resident and/or property owner, business owner or designated representative of a non-profit association, and;
b) who has resided in, owned property in, owned a business located in, or operated as a non-profit association for the preceding ninety (90) days or longer in Girdwood Valley.
Or via mail: GBOS – PO Box 390 Girdwood, AK 99587
Applications to be received by 5PM on Friday, July 1, 2022.”

GBOS tabled the Chamber’s resolution until next month to work through language edits. Instead, GBOS wrote a letter summarizing the various issued raised by the community at Town Hall and provided the letter to HLB and the administration.

Many Girdwood residents raised concerns to HLB on their meeting held 6-23-2022. One HLB Commissioner asked for the development agreement to be emailed to him because he had not seen it. Commissioner Wilbanks requested a work session on Holtan Hills. We will post the recording when it becomes published.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Other relevant information and links:

Request for Proposal (RFP) 

Evaluation Committee Memo​
HLB Parcel 6-011 Plat 87-131
HLB Parcel 6-016 Plat 85-38
HLB Parcel 6-017 Plat 73-220
Suppleme​ntal Documents

DRAFT Concept Plan Phases I-III  (This will change throughout the Planning/Platting process.) Source: HLB website 6/2022.

Governmental Timelines:

10/26/20 – Public Review Period for 2021 Work Plan begins

12/11/20 – End of 45 day public review period for 2021 Work Plan

2/23/21 – HLB 2021 Work Plan Approved by Assembly via Resolution 2021-25

4/7/21 – HLB Posts RFP (RFP was not mentioned on work plan, approved just 6 weeks prior)

4/20/21 – HLB Holds Meeting to Discuss RFP

5/14/21 – Original deadline to submit response to RFP

6/7/21 – Extended due date for submissions

6/29/21 – MOA Posts Selection Committee Results Memo (No elected officials on selection committee. HLB chose committee.)

7/15/21 – Approximate Date Negotiations Begin

Girdwood Summer Solstice Dance Party! June 18th 7-11 PM

Summer Solstice Dance Party is ON! All ages welcome 7-9 PM. 9 PM and later is for 21+

The evening features two different live music bands and aerial silk performances by Kage Free. 7-9 PM Local Girdwood band, The River Livers, will kick us off. 9-11 PM will be full of 80s dance music from I Love Robots.

This event is a fundraiser for Girdwood, Inc. Not only are you enjoying a fun evening of dancing and music, but the sales help to support a local non-profit. We can’t wait to see you there!

Tickets are on sale now! GO TO: