Girdwood Inc Newsletter Issue II

Girdwood, Inc. is pleased to provide the 2nd issue of our newsletter. We do not claim to be journalists but are residents who deem it important to help keep the community informed.  Many Girdwood community organizations work with us, and we realize they are impacted by activities occurring now in Girdwood.

Girdwood, Inc.’s Mission is being “Girdwood’s Partner in Funding and Leadership”, and that has brought results. We remodeled, restored and now operate the Alyeska Roundhouse Museum. We raised funds to build the Gerrish Library and Community Room.  Girdwood Inc. holds or has held funds on behalf of the Girdwood Skate Park, Fungus Fair, Girdwood Community Garden and more. Many smaller community groups use the fiscal sponsorship of Girdwood, Inc.  By doing the basic bookkeeping for them, it makes it easier for committees to focus on tasks and achieve goals.  We invite non-profit groups that are doing positive deeds for Girdwood to explore whether we can help them.

Since our last newsletter, which focused on the Holtan Hills proposal, some very important changes have occurred. More than 40 Girdwood residents attended the Heritage Land Bank Advisory Commission (HLBAC) meeting on January 27, 2022. We would like to extend thanks to those who took the time out of their day to do so. The HLBAC is a 7-member board. This was the introduction of the 6 new commissioners to each other. Ron Tenny, who is the Girdwood Representative on the Heritage Land Bank Advisory Committee, is the sole pre-existing commissioner. 

First and foremost, the disposal of Holtan Hills has been pushed back until at least May 2022. Girdwood, Inc. sees this slow down as a positive step toward what we hope is much more community engagement in the planning process. But it is important that we don’t let this important project blend into the background and miss our opportunity to communicate and articulate community needs.  Anchorage must take Girdwood’s community feedback seriously and conscientiously.

After the December 22nd HLB Public Meeting presentation on Holtan Hills, Girdwood Inc. ran an informal poll asking “If you had to make a decision today regarding the Holtan Hills proposal, would you support it?” 247 Votes were received (approximately 10% of Girdwood’s population). 58% said “I need more information or want changes” 28% responded “No”, and 14% said “Yes.”   Based on these results, Girdwood Inc. finds it concerning that so many citizens do not support the project as currently presented.  

A Town Hall was held on February 12th which was arranged by several local residents. The meeting was held in person at Girdwood Chapel and via Zoom. There were talks and presentations given by speakers from Girdwood Clinic, Pastor Nico Reins of Girdwood Chapel and Girdwood Food Pantry, Girdwood Community Land Trust and Four Valleys Community School. This was followed by more than an hour of public testimony. Several Girdwood Board of Supervisors (GBOS) attended, as well as Assemblyman John Weddleton and candidate Randy Sulte. The testimony was quite moving in addressing the importance of Girdwood’s social services, infrastructure and business employment needs.

Emma Kramer makes notes from public comments at the February 12th Town Hall.

On February 24th, HLBAC held a meeting to focus on their Annual Work Plan Draft. In the plan, HLB identifies several large areas which are mapped as “Disposal in 2022.” Not only does this include Holtan Hills, but also parcels in Girdwood South Townsite and the Girdwood Industrial Park.

Source: Page 51 of HLB 2022 Annual Work Plan

At the meeting Commissioners Brett Wilbanks and Ron Tenny made comments that it would be appropriate for Heritage Land Bank (HLB) to complete needed updates to the Girdwood Area Plan and made calls for HLB to complete a site-specific impact study related to the disposals of the Holtan Hills parcels. Wilbanks stated the Girdwood community had “several valid concerns.” A Heritage Land Bank representative stated that the Anchorage School District and various agencies such as the Anchorage Planning Department have determined that “school impact was not a concern.” Ron Tenny gave the example that the school’s capacity could be impacted depending on how many of the lots are utilized by full time residents with children, which could overwhelm the school. 

In reference to the Girdwood Industrial Park, Commissioner Brett Wilbanks pointed out that HLB should not dispose of land when a municipal need is already established. Examples of this are that the Girdwood Fire Department normally utilizes an area for training in Phase II of the Industrial Park, as well as Girdwood Valley Service Area for equipment storage. HLB responded that a portion of land would be set aside for GVSA and would include space for the fire department within that area.  

Discussion continued regarding the Girdwood Industrial Park.  Bob Wolfe’s need for a power connection has been an agenda item at recent public meetings. Mr. Wolfe expressed frustration that after 20 years of operating in the valley, he does not have a long-term commitment from HLB and, because of this, he is unable to grow his business due to the insecurity of knowing he has a permanent place to operate.  In Phase II, permits are renewed annually and permittees only have days to vacate if directed by the land manager (HLB). Without site control, via ownership or long-term leases, permittees cannot build any permanent structures. This issue may be beginning to change in a positive direction as the first 5 lots in Phase I are in the process of transferring ownership to the Leasees.

Following these meetings, Bob Wolfe was thanked by Kyle Kelly and members of GBOS for helping to plow the Girdwood roads when the current contractor’s equipment was stuck on the Anchorage-side of the February 18th avalanche.  We hope this issue can be resolved, as Bob Wolfe plays a big role in keeping Girdwood businesses and residential areas open and safe via his snow plowing services.

Girdwood, Inc. board members recently participated in a meeting with former Breckenridge Mayor, John Warner, who explained how Breckenridge handled their critical workforce housing issues. He said that to start, you have to realize that if you can’t house your own workers, “you are just a resort, not a resort community”.  After selecting to move forward as a community, they prepared for their upcoming needs by land banking parcels for the future. In his opinion, projects that were 80% workforce and 20% market rate were economically viable.  They worked with trusted contractors to market and construct the developments. He said traditional rental units, as opposed to only homes for purchase, should be included in projects.  Breckinridge is now including them to continue to relieve pressure on the housing market. He also stressed the need for short-term rental prohibition via deed restriction be included in the new development.  Future buyers will know upfront about the property’s short-term rental restrictions and can take the restriction fully into account.  Breckenridge has about 5000 housing units and a max of 2200 short-term rental licenses. Such restrictions already exist in a number of Girdwood developments, so this is not an unusual or difficult stipulation.

If you are interested in getting more involved in this subject matter, we encourage you to participate at various meetings or send your comments to elected officials. This discussion will be continued at the Girdwood Board of Supervisors and Girdwood Land Use Committee meetings. We expect this to be the appropriate channel for the Girdwood community to communicate in one clear voice. HLBAC will continue to go through the Annual Work Plan Draft at their March 24th meeting. The next critical meeting will be the public hearing to approve HLB Annual Work Plan, currently slated for April 28th at 11:30 AM online via Microsoft Teams. Please “like” Girdwood Inc. on Facebook or fill out the form below to join our newsletter mailing list to receive emails for notification on important upcoming meetings.

Our board would like to extend our thanks for the appreciation shared after our first issue. We received thank you letters and additional information from readers. Our online version was widely shared, and we appreciate your help in getting the word out regarding these important happenings in Girdwood. Until next time!

Girdwood, Inc.

Board of Directors

If you need additional context: see our Newsletter Issue I

Holtan Hills – Proposed Girdwood Development

Newsletter – Issue 1 – January 2022 – Extended online version.

Girdwood, Inc. has been an established non-profit in the Girdwood Valley since 2004. The organization has led many large projects including infrastructure improvements. These have consisted of raising money and the remodeling and oversight of the Round House Museum, raised money for building the Gerrish Library and Community Room, as well as fostering many budding organizations to become their own stand-alone 501c(3)s. 

This is the first issue of a Girdwood, Inc. newsletter, where we can update people on matters in the valley. We expect this to be a periodic letter, but this first issue is very important because of the critical land development project proposed for an area north of the school, locally known as Holtan Hills.  To give you a sense of magnitude, 150 acres is in play at Holtan Hills. The current footprint of developed Girdwood is roughly 300 acres under private ownership.

Moving briskly, the developers have expressed interest in breaking ground this summer.  Girdwood Inc. feels it is important to identify the parties involved, their role, upcoming meetings, and some questions related to a project this large.  Disposal of the land is up for approval at the end of January, with Planning and Zoning meetings over the coming months.  This means at this point, the proposal is heading upstairs, already moving away from Girdwood’s engagement.

The Heritage Land Bank (HLB) is a division of the Municipality of Anchorage’s Real Estate Department, and operates under the rules set by the Anchorage Municipal Code.  The HLB manages municipal land assigned to its inventory, and their operations are to benefit the citizens of Anchorage, promote orderly development, and achieve the goals of the Comprehensive Plan.  The Heritage Land Bank controls approximately 5,000 acres in the Girdwood Valley. This land abuts present-day Girdwood in many places and represents most of the developable land available for community needs or expansion.  

In April 2021, HLB released a Request for Proposal (RFP) on their municipal webpage. A surprise to most of us, the HLB conveyed this was in response to receiving 2 applications for the land. Complex and broad, the RFP was unlike what most RFP contractors were familiar with seeing.  The HLB was offering to sell or contract with a developer, up to 150 acres to be identified from three potential areas. Respondents were to provide their development plan and several other requirements. The general location of the parcels is behind Girdwood School (accessed from the “Water Road” on the right side prior to coming to the school parking lot) and continuing up along Crow Creek Road.

This gate is where the entrance to Phase I of Holtan Hills is located.

In June, HLB held a “selection panel” and chose “CY Investments” as the winning respondent. The team is composed of Connie Yoshimura, Seth Anderson and Pomeroy Lodging.  According to the RFP proposal, upon a lot being sold in the Planned Unit Subdivision, 50% of the proceeds go to the CY Investments partnership (Yoshimura/Anderson) and the other 50% of the proceeds are directed to the Heritage Land Bank Fund.

Pomeroy is proposing to purchase 27 acres directly from HLB. This land would be located on the east side of Glacier Creek.  Pomeroy will later submit a separate ski village plan; they are not involved with the Holtan Hills development.

As proposed today, the Holtan Hills Project is set to occur in 3 phases. Phase I includes about 45 lots of varying sizes and shapes, mostly single-family with a few multifamily building sites. Phase II is proposed to be 46-50 lots and has a connection road access to Crow Creek Road. Phase III has roughly 40 larger lots ranging in size from ½ to 1 acre in size.

There are many questions swirling around this proposal.  For example, to our knowledge the required “Developer Agreement” has not been finalized.  Little is known about the project’s impact on local power, sewage, water and traffic.  Who pays for roads & utilities is not clear.  This is going to be a higher density development than has previously been done here.  The development is taking about 6.5 acres of Girdwood Institutions and Parks (GIP) land adjacent to the school, but there hasn’t been any formal analysis of future school populations or land needs.  The HLB indicated they are participating in the development, but their role as a public body is not entirely clear.  Despite the big need for workforce housing, the HLB has said they are unable to limit short-term rentals despite such covenants being part of many existing projects and subdivisions.  The developers have indicated they intend to give locals two weeks advance purchase opportunities, but no detail was provided.  Given the community does not have legal expertise, it seems the HLB needs to put on their community support hat and provide real analysis of important issues.  This entire 150-acre proposal came out as a surprise, with no prior general community knowledge or input.   Now that project details are beginning to come forward, the community is in a position to raise issues.

We encourage you to participate in the upcoming meetings about this project. For instance, disposal of the 3 parcels is on the agenda at the next HLB meeting on January 27, 2022 at 11:30 AM. The meeting will be held virtually on Microsoft Teams. “The HLBAC encourages anyone wishing to provide public testimony via telephone to email to by 9:00 am the day of 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 “Phone Testimony.” Reference “Item Case 2021-16 Public Hearing (HLB Parcels 6-011, 6-016 & 6-017 Disposal).” – More details and update below.

We will also try to keep contact and time information for future Holtan Hills meetings here on our website.  Girdwood Inc. realizes there are many land needs in Girdwood, and is not opposed to projects that can meet those needs.  With no local newspaper, this critical project has not been widely publicized in Girdwood.  We don’t encourage unnecessary delays, but we should take the time for the developers to listen and address many remaining questions about the project.

Girdwood, Inc. looks forward to continuing to update the community regarding the status of this project and other relevant community engagement opportunities. Until next time!

Girdwood, Inc.

Board of Directors

Meeting Details:

Since publication of the newsletter, the disposal of the property was pushed back from this months agenda, and is set to be on the February HLB Meeting. There is an update regarding Holtan Hills on the January agenda. Following agenda items, will be Public Comment period. If you wish to speak, send an email to with request to speak during Public Comment period before 9:00 AM on January 27. Agenda posted below.

​Meeting: January 27, 2022 @ 11:30 AM Heritage Land Bank Advisory Commission

Call in (audio only) +1 907-519-0237 PIN: 772316416#  

To join on Microsoft Teams, scan the QR code below to be directed into the meeting or click the link below.

Join on your computer or mobile app:

Click here to join the meeting

HLB Meeting Agenda:

Meeting Update:

The Public Hearing for disposal will not occur before May 2022, per notice on HLB website.



Relevant Information:

Holtan Hills Community Meeting 12.22.21 video
Holtan Hills Presentation slides​ 12.22.21
Holtan Hills Concept Drawing 12.22.21
Link to HLB page “Properties for Sale” RE: Girdwood Residential 2021​

Link to Winning RFP – Redactions by HLB

Draft 2022 Annual Work Progra​m  ​***There will be edits to this draft made in ‘track changes’ through January 12th.  For that reason, the Public Hearing will now be in March***​

​Draft Map – Appendices to be posted soon, as well as clearer version of chapter 4.  

2021 Heritage Land Bank Annual Work Program and 2022-2026 Five-Year Management Plan 

The 2021 HLB Annual Work Program and 2022-2026 Five-Year Management Plan was approved by the Assembly on February 23, 2021 (AR 2021-25).

News Articles:

January 2022 Anchorage Daily News “Girdwood desperately needs housing. A veteran developer aims to help, but residents have many questions.”

June 2021 Alaska Public Media “Girdwood housing market reaches ‘crisis’ level, forcing locals out”