The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly on Monday will consider an ordinance in first reading that would make several revision to the borough’s zoning code to encourage housing development. The Assembly also will hold a work session on revenue sources for the Local Education Fund, and will consider adopting a resolution requesting federal funding for the construction of a new homeless shelter.
The Assembly will hold a public hearing on proposed revisions to the borough code “to provide new opportunities for the construction of new housing by relaxing permitting requirements under certain circumstances,” per the agenda.
The proposed ordinance was drafted “based on comments and direction received from the Assembly, the Code and Planning Committee, and the Planning Commission,” the agenda explains. It makes four changes to the borough’s zoning code.
“Detached accessory dwelling units would be permitted with standards (administratively) rather than through the conditional use permitting process. “The standards are the same as those that were required for a CUP with certain subjective elements removed,” the agenda explains.
Triplex dwellings would be able to be permitted with standards in the low-density and medium-density residential zones if one off-street parking space is provided for each bedroom. Currently, they can be permitted through the conditional use permitting process only.
Four-family dwellings would be permitted in the medium-density residential zone with a conditional use permit, or administratively if an off-street parking space is provided for each bedroom of the dwelling.
As a final change, the minimum area required for Planned Unit Development specifically for residential use would be reduced by nearly 90% — from two acres to 10,000 square feet.
“2.5 acres is appropriate for developments that involve commercial or industrial uses to allow for buffers, wider roads, storage areas, etc. that are not necessary for an exclusively residential development,” the proposed ordinance explains. “10,000 square feet is equal to two minimum-sized lots in the Medium Density Residential Zone, which could provide enough room for a development of smaller homes.”
Education fund work session
Later in the meeting, the Assembly will enter a work session on revenues for the Local Education Fund. The Assembly in May asked staff to schedule such a work session amid discussions about the budget for the Ketchikan School District.
Currently, 100% of property taxes collected in the borough are deposited into the LEF, but the amount needed from the LEF to pay for district services, including health insurance, has exceeded revenue to the fund.
The work session specifically will include discussion on a suggestion that the borough implement an optional property tax exemption of up to $50,000, aiming “to balance the LEF with a small amount to build reserves … without making housing/rentals more expensive,” per the agenda.
Borough staff are not recommending the Assembly pursue such an exemption, as it would result in a “significant” loss of tax revenue if implemented on all residential property.
The proposal also likely would result in increased costs on residential rental properties, which would be passed on to tenants. “Actions that increase costs for renters are inconsistent with the Assembly’s direction to staff to work on solving housing issues,” the agenda explains.
Implementing such an exemption also would necessitate the hiring of up to two more staff members in the Assessment Department to handle the added exemption paperwork.
Staff also have listed on the work session discussion the possibility of dedicating federal Payment In Lieu of Taxes funds toward the LEF. Currently, PILT funding to the borough amounts to about $1.2 million, all of which is placed into the General Fund.
The agenda also includes a list of other potential revenue generators that could potentially be dedicated toward the LEF, such as by eliminating the in-city exemption for the Transient Occupancy Tax or by pursuing a seasonal sales tax.
Homeless shelter resolution
Assembly Member Austin Otos and Vice Mayor AJ Pierce requested the second item of new business on the agenda: a resolution requesting federal funding for a new homeless shelter. The building housing the current PATH homeless shelter on 628 Park Ave. was built in 1942.
“The building lacks space, mobility accessibility, and many basic safety systems that are required features in modern facilities,” the resolution’s sponsor statement explains. “Statistics show that the need for the services is generally increasing over time, and that the population is aging, and experiencing more disabilities — especially mobility-related disabilities. The lack of space, lack of mobility access in the current building, as well as the general age and deterioration of the same, have created a need to replace the facility.”
The sponsor statement notes that the Ketchikan City Council recently approved a resolution supporting efforts to find a location for a new shelter, and states that the project would be a large investment in infrastructure, would bolster employment in the construction industry and would “provide an important enhancement in Ketchikan and the Borough as a world-class tourism destination,” the sponsor statement explains.
“The community is experiencing a severe housing shortage, especially in the lower income brackets, those most likely to become homeless and require services from agencies like the PATH (shelter),” the statement concludes. “With both local governments beginning the process of addressing the community housing issue, progress on funding a new shelter will represent an important step toward the betterment of the Ketchikan community.”
Monday’s meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Assembly chambers at 1900 First Ave. There will be time for public comment near the start of the meeting.