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Rezone tops Boro agenda: Municipal election results certified

Daily News Staff Writer

A proposed property rezone at Knudson Cove generated much comment Monday during the regular Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting, in which the Assembly voted 5-0 to introduce an substitute ordinance to accomplish the requested rezone and set a second public hearing on the issue for Oct. 21.

Monday also saw the Assembly certify the results of the Oct. 1 municipal elections and bid farewell to outgoing Assembly member Judith McQuerry as she completed her three-year term in office. McQuerry did not seek reelection.

Incoming Mayor Rodney Dial was sworn in on Monday evening, as was newly elected Assembly members Austin Otos and David Landis, the now former borough mayor.

Most of Monday’s regular meeting focused on the request by Jeffrey Wedekind and Nadra Angerman to rezone a lot located at 25 Potter Road on the east side of Knudson Cove from low density residential to general commercial.

The proposed rezone arrived at the Assembly on Monday with an unanimous recommendation for denial from the Ketchikan Planning Commission.

“This was unanimously denied by the planning commission,” Larry Jackson, who owns a residence on Potter Road, said early during the public comment portion of the meeting. “And it’s somewhat a rhetorical question here: I don't know why we have a planning commission if it can be unanimously denied and then brought again to the Assembly here, and the recourse for those (who) are opposed is to get up and restate what they already stated.”

The subsequent comments and discussion ranged broadly from the character of Knudson Cove and the previous uses of the property in question to the increased appearance of contentious rezone requests coming to the Assembly and Planning Commission. There also was discussion of the borough’s Future Land Use Map, the borough staff view that the Assembly should approve the rezone request, and whether a neighborhood planning process should be done for the Knudson Cove area.

 Jackson urged the Assembly to direct staff to come up with a budget neighborhood planning process, then fund it.

“I think we could take some time as a community and try to take a lot of this conflict out of ... what we’re having here today at Assembly level and put it back a community level, try to solve it out earlier in the process.”

Wedekind and Angerman are co-owners of the Chinook Shores fishing lodge that’s also located on Potter Road. Wedekind told the Assembly that he’d bought the 2-acre lot from Lawrence “Snapper” Carson in 2016 and now resides there. The site has a 200-foot float and boathouse that are in need of repair, a tidelands lease with the borough, and ample space for parking and storing boats and other equipment used in the Chinook Shores business.

With the uncertainty of the sport fishing seasons — specifically recent restrictions on the sport harvest of chinook salmon —  Wedekind said he wanted to be prepared for that circumstance.

“I want to be able to diversify and have something else to fall back on because if for some reason they shut down fishing in Ketchikan, we're in tough shape,” Wedekind said. “There's a lot of people that are going to be in a tough shape. So we're just trying to ... stay  ahead of the trend, and ... be prepared to diversify with some other opportunity like a cruise ship tour.

He said one of their proposed activities would be for a wildlife tour that would start from the property’s dock and return there for a salmon bake at the renovated boathouse. Doing that a couple times a day would be enough to make a living, he said.

 I don't anticipate hundreds and hundreds of people — I wouldn't want to be that busy, personally,” he said, adding that he lives there, too. “So it's not like ... we're gonna, you know, create this huge, massive tourism program.”

He said people see that the rezone application includes the term restaurant and bar, and think worse case scenario.

“Oh my God, there's going to be a Margaritaville there — no, that's not the case,” Wedekind said. “I don't see how the area could even support that. ... I don't want to be in the restaurant business. I would love to do a little salmon bake to tack onto the end of the, of a wildlife tour and not have to rely on finding fish. Because that's pretty stressful now as a charter operator.”

Before Wedekind spoke, he, Angerman and their attorney, Stephen Bradford, unfurled a large photograph of Knudson Cove that was taken from their property. The panoramic image showed the nearby Knudson Cove Marina and other aspects of the cove as an indication of the commercial presence already in Knudson Cove.

Wedekind noted that there’s a bug demand for moorage in Knudson Cove, something that could be alleviated somewhat by moorage at his dock. He added that the previous owner had been involved in moorage.

He also said that a proposed fueling station would be only for his moorage customers and his own vessels, rather than the general public.

Wedekind added that, after the Planning Commission recommended that the rezone be denied, he’d met with borough staff to develop a list of special conditions to be placed on the rezone request to address concerns.

 That list in part would limit the general commercial uses to retail and wholesale businesses limited to marine craft rentals; food and beverage service; meeting and event space; marine wildlife viewing tours; charter fishing tours; retail store; membership marine fueling facility, not open to the general public; commercial parking for vehicles and marine craft; commercial recreation and lodges.

Other speakers who commented regarding the subject included Knudson Cove resident Lloydine Nordtvedt and Potter Road resident Leslie Jackson, who opposed the rezone. Sheila Miller, who resides farther north of Knudson Cove, voiced concern about rezones happening on properties adjacent to people who obtained their own property expecting that a restrictive zoning would remain in place.

Potter Road resident John Harrington spoke in support of the rezone, noting that the borough’s Future Land Use Map process had denoted the Knudson Cove area as a commercial use area, and that the proposed rezone fit the intent of that process.

Trevor Shaw noted some of the difficulties that the current planning process seemed to be producing with rezones, with neighbors pitted against each other.

“I would agree with the comments that were made that there probably needs to be something of an overhaul and reform to planning and zoning ordinance in the borough,” Shaw said. “If here's a way to do that and figure out a way to make it a little bit more of a cooperative process because it's not fun.”

Once the public hearing was complete, there was a brief section of questions by Assembly members for Jonathan Lappin, an associate planner with the borough’s Planning Department.

Landis asked about the FLUM and other mixed-use area in the borough, and commented about past uses of the Potter Road property in question.

“It seems to me that this property has a long history of commercial-industrial use that occurred on essentially a residential lot,” said Landis, who later noted that he’d once purchased lumber from a sawmill on the property.

Assembly Member Sven Westergard made the motion to introduce the substitute version of Ordinance 1895, which contains the special conditions developed by the property owners. Assembly Member Felix Wong seconded the motion.

Landis was the only Assembly member to speak to the motion before the vote.

“I'm not opposed to hearing more about this — I want to research a little bit more about it,” he said. “I want to find out some more about that Future Land Use Map, as well. But it seems to me that ... there really wouldn't be a substantive change in historical use of this property. It does not look and feel to me like a residential operation.”

The Assembly voted 5-0 to introduce the ordinance and set a public hearing for the Assembly meeting on Oct. 21.

Assembly members Sue Pickrell and Alan Bailey were not present at Monday’s meeting.

In other business, the Assembly unanimously approved the Ketchikan community capital project priority and policy issues list that had been developed by the Borough Lobbying Executive Committee on Sept. 24.

The committee includes representatives from the borough, City of Ketchikan and City of Saxman. The final list will be submitted to the governor and Alaska Legislature for consideration.