The first Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting of 2022 was rich with discussion on the three major action items on its agenda.
Before adjourning just after 9 p.m., the Assembly unanimously directed borough staff to draft a resolution opposing transboundary mining actions that threaten Southeast Alaska’s watersheds, but the Assembly did not approve a rezone request for the property at 819 Water St. in second reading.
The Assembly approved an amendment to the transboundary mining resolution motion to advocate for a permanent ban on tailing dams in the final resolution, something that Breanna Walker had requested during the public comment portion of the meeting. Walker identified herself as the campaign coordinator of Salmon Beyond Borders, an organization advocating for more stringent transboundary mining protocols. The amendment was approved 5-2.
Assembly Member David Landis, who co-sponsored the resolution, and Assembly Member Jeremy Bynum voted against the amendment for being too vague and because they felt too unfamiliar with mining logistics to properly assess it in context. With the amendment approved, the Assembly unanimously approved the amended motion.
The rezone request that the Assembly considered during the public hearing section of the meeting didn’t secure the Assembly’s approval.
The rezone, which would turn the lot at 819 Water St. from Heavy Industrial to Central Commerical/Mobile Building Restricted, would allow the property owners to construct a building with a commercial ground floor and one or two floors for residential apartments above. Under the heavy industrial zoning and the proposed zoning, the lot would not be subject to height restrictions.
Assembly members felt uncomfortable about the lack of information and specific plans for the property, the lack of height restrictions, and the aim to install pilings at the site ahead of the 2022 cruise ship season. A motion to amend the rezone request to limit the building height to three stories did not pass because it failed to address other concerns with the project, and the Assembly did not make another motion to approve the project.
Also on Monday, the Assembly spent nearly an hour in a work session asking the borough manager and borough attorney about how the borough has been navigating the federal vaccine mandate that is currently embroiled in litigation. Toward the end of the work session, Borough Manager Ruben Duran assured the Assembly that he would keep them apprised of any actions or policies he puts in place to comply with the mandate, if required by law.
Further coverage of Monday’s meeting will be published in a future edition of the Daily News.