The Planning Commission will vote to decide the Elbasan Acres appeal tomorrow evening at 7 pm, see Agenda.
Elbasan Acres is a Borough proposal to build a major subdivision and elementary school in an area with one of the highest concentrations of fine particulate pollution in the nation. This North Pole neighborhood near Repp, Brock and Hollowell Roads also has a struggling housing market at great risk of being driven lower by this proposal. The subdivision and school are proposed just outside the PM 2.5 nonattainment area, unacceptably risking needs of public health and attainment. The appeal seeks to overturn Platting Board approval of Elbasan Acres.
This is your last chance to support Jeanne Olson’s appeal to the Planning Commission. Include your mailing address and phone number so they won’t discount your input.
Three Sentences for Safety and Property Values:
I support only a safe location for a new North Pole elementary school if it is indeed needed. I also support protecting private property owners and their home values. Please do everything you can to support the appeal of Elbasan Acres.
Mayor Luke Hopkins <email@example.com>,
Jim Conner – FNSB Air Quality Specialist <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Joy Shockley Huntington – Chair <email@example.com>,
David C Lanning <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
B Kevin McCarthy <email@example.com>,
Thomas E. Marsh <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Marna Sanford <email@example.com>,
David Pruhs <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Tim Sovde <email@example.com>,
Gregory D. Bringhurst <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Sara Mason <email@example.com>,
Jerry McBeath <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Superintendent Pete Lewis <email@example.com>,
Kristina Brophy – President <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Heidi Haas – Vice President <email@example.com>,
John Thies – Treasurer <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Sean Rice – Clerk <email@example.com>,
Lisa Hall <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Sue Hull <email@example.com>,
Charlie Leonelli <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Colonel Thomas Daack – Base Rep <email@example.com>,
Colonel Ron Johnson – Post Rep <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Hanna Brewer – Student Rep <email@example.com>
Clean Air Fairbanks <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The following Community Perspective by appellant Jeanne Olson, DVM, was published today.
The issue of air quality and unsafe levels of PM2.5 is a familiar topic. Folks who still doubt the presence, distribution, source and the unhealthy effects of our local bad air must surely be charter members of the Flat Earth Society — that is another matter. The air we breathe is still our most important and current subject.
Last week, there were few empty seats at the Fairbanks North Star Borough Planning Commission meeting. Dozens of citizens gathered to testify and listen to an appeal of a Platting Board decision approving a borough-owned, large subdivision in the North Pole area called Elbasan Acres.
The primary issue was unhealthy air quality and the potential creation of more than 200 homes to make it worse. The testimony, passionate and heart-wrenching at times, continued well past midnight.
The appellant’s case was based upon the “health, safety and welfare” phrase in borough code Title 17. The borough, as the owner, claimed that air quality is not a Title 17 issue, and should be addressed as part of a separate public process.
Moreover, the Platting Board claimed that the phrase in Title 17 which refers to “to protect and improve health, safety and general welfare of the people of the borough” is merely the purpose of Title 17, but not one of its requirements.
The Planning Commission members wisely decided to recess and resume discussion of this appeal at their next regular meeting, which is Tuesday.
The important question — “Does a new subdivision have to protect the ‘health, safety and welfare’ of the borough citizens?” — has already been upheld as a valid appeal basis and a requirement in Title 17 in a landmark appeal in 2002. In that case, a private developer wanted to create a large subdivision called Contentment Estates. It would have required numerous “non-traditional” septic systems because of the swampy and frozen land.
Then-Commissioner Luke Hopkins queried Rene Broker, the borough attorney, if the Platting Board was charged with “as we are protecting health and welfare.” Based upon her response, Mr. Hopkins said he felt the subdivision that was submitted to the Platting Board and acted on by them “has developed into a situation that we are not completely protecting the health and welfare of the Borough.” The appeal prevailed, 6-3.
The Elbasan Acres issue is also a health, safety and welfare concern, but with different characters. It is more than 600 acres of borough-owned land with plans to be developed with borough funds (including a school) and involves air quality rather than water quality. The air quality problem is a more immediate and more serious concern than wastewater was at Contentment Estates. And thus Elbasan Acres is even more deserving of rejection.
While you can haul drinking water and might be OK with using a honey bucket, we all share the same air.
Perhaps the majority of the Platting Board members have a fundamental misunderstanding of their purpose. While oversight of the technical details of land subdivision and the clarity of land boundaries through the platting process is a valid government function, there are other, and more important, governmental duties.
Subdivision platting law is based in public law rather than contract law. Although it affects real estate, its origins come from governmental law concepts premised on the right of the government to protect the health, safety and public welfare of the public. That is why the Platting Board and Planning Commission exist. Without a purpose, why bother to have a platting board or a planning commission?
Indeed, the fundamental purpose of our government, at all levels, is to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. I think that is something that we all learned in high school civics class.
That is why we have police and fire protection, platting and replats, zoning and rezoning. It’s why we have state environmental monitoring of sulfolane in North Pole and why a state court ruled to stop the source of air pollution near Woodriver Elementary School.
We may disagree about several other questions raised at the appeal. Should government develop land in direct competition with private developers and real estate agents?
Should land be sold into private hands or retained for recreational purposes for all citizens? What part of government process should, in good faith, involve the citizens? But, what other more fundamental justification, for any branch and level of government, than to protect its citizens?
Many of those citizens will be watching and listening when the Planning Commission reconvenes Tuesday. May wisdom and integrity be included in their decision.
Jeanne Olson is a resident and veterinarian in the North Pole area. She is the appellant in this case before the Planning Commission and can be contacted at email@example.com.