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Gravina plans to be discussed

Daily News Staff Writer

Potential land uses in Clam Cove area of Gravina Island will be a focus of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Planning Commission meeting Tuesday evening.

The Borough Planning Department is requesting a rezone of about 240 acres in the Clam Cove area from the existing mix of zones to a “Planned Unit Development.”

The 240-acre area includes a five-acre parcel that’s also on Tuesday’s agenda for rezone consideration.

However, Planning Department staff is recommending denial of the rezone request because the proposed rezone is “inconsistent with the (Planned Unit Development) rezone and vision of the neighborhood and outcome of the neighborhood meetings.”

The five-acre parcel owned by Tab and Sarah McNab on the Tongass Narrows west channel shoreline near the southern terminus of the Gravina Island Highway has proven to be a difficult zoning issue for the Planning Department, Planning Commission, and Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly.

The McNabs purchased the property, which is zoned as rural residential with a cottage industry overlay, and in August of 2018 requested a rezone to general commercial to allow the property to be used for the McNabs’ Ketchikan Outdoors tour business.

The original rezone request included a dock for the inflatable boat tours operated by the business, in addition to buildings related to the tour business, restaurant, retail shop, overnight cabins, the use of electric vehicles, and a private home.

In August, the Planning Commission recommended against authorizing a rezone of the property to general commercial.

In February, the Planning Commission considered another rezone request for the same property. The request, which did not include a restaurant, retail store or overnight cabin, sought general commercial zone, according to borough information.

Again, the Planning Commission recommended against the rezone.The Borough Assembly considered the issue, holding a public hearing in March.

Support voiced for the rezone during the hearing included the concepts of a need for areas where the visitor industry can expand, and that the McNabbs and Ketchikan Outdoors have a good reputation as a local business.

There also was a substantial amount of opposition to the proposed rezone as a “spot rezone” that wasn’t compatible with the existing zoning and those who owned property in the area because of its current zoning.

The Assembly didn’t make a decision on the rezone request itself. Instead, the Assembly sent the request back to the Planning Commission with the idea that the Planning Department would complete a “neighborhood plan” for the Clam Cove area following meetings with area residents and property owners.

“One element of that plan is the creation of a planned unit development that reflects the vision for Clam Cove as stated during the neighborhood planning meetings,” according to borough information.

The Planning Department has had a total of three meetings since then. The draft neighborhood plan is not yet complete, according to the agenda materials.

“The development of the neighborhood plan and PUD have been a herculean task for planning staff to accomplish in a month's time,” state the agenda materials that explain why the Planning Commission’s consideration of the draft neighborhood plan is being postponed. “Unfortunately, the neighborhood plan is not completed but is anticipated to be complete for the July 9 (Planning) Commission meeting.”

The Planned Unit Development is on the commission’s agenda for consideration Wednesday.

“The purpose of the PUD is to codify the land uses and development restrictions that reflect the vision of the property owners and residents of Clam Cove for their neighborhood,” according to the Planning Department staff case summary.

“In general, the PUD is designed to create a predominately residential area that also provides opportunities for traditional commercial activities, as well as less intense activities for those wishing to pursue a self-sufficient lifestyle,” the staff case summary continues. “This is accomplished by requiring larger lot sizes, internal buffers, and allowing commercial uses through the Conditional Use Permit process.”   

There would be four distinct areas within the proposed 240-acre planned unit development zone, according to planning staff.

One is a “Waterfront Village Residential” that‘s located along much of the waterfront, keeps existing lot sizes and would allow more commercial types of use than the existing zoning.

A “mixed-use area” would “allow much more commercial activity and smaller lots on a band of land adjacent to the Gravina Island Highway.” The McNabs’ property would be within this mixed-use area, according to maps accompanying the agenda item.

 A “green-space” area would separate the mixed-use area from the waterfront village and a “large-lot residential area,” which would allow the fewest commercial activities but more than the current zoning.

“Almost all commercial uses in all three areas are permitted through the (conditional-use permit) process to provide an opportunity to mitigate negative impacts on surrounding properties and maintain the character of the Clam Cove neighborhood,” states the staff analysis.

The analysis notes that the 240 acres is predominately undeveloped land — mostly muskeg.

The analysis also references the McNab property rezone request to general commercial for tourism use.

“However, due to the Clam Cove Plan adopted in 2005, a more holistic approach is necessary for a rezone of the area,” states the staff analysis. “After multiple meetings with property owners in the Clam Cove area, the proposed PUD appears to satisfy the needs of the property owner for tourism, while also protecting the identified residential character of the Clam Cove area. Additionally, the PUD is consistent with the Clam Cove Plan that identified the need for some expansion of commercial uses within the Clam Cove area.”

Planning staff continues to recommend against proceeding with proposed rezone of the McNab property to general commercial.

“This requested rezone is inconsistent with the PUD rezone and vision of the neighborhood and outcome of the neighborhood meetings,” according to the staff case summary. ”Based on the PUD and the vision of the neighborhood, planning staff recommends the (Planning) Commission forward the case to the Assembly with a recommendation of denial.”

There are other items on the Planning Commission meeting agenda on Tuesday. The full agenda packet is available on the borough’s website.

The Planning Commission meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Borough Assembly chambers, 1900 First Ave. There is time for public comment at the start of the meeting.