Archive for the ‘On Real Estate Values’ Category

Tonight’s hearing outcome: Planning Commissioners voted 5 to 2 to deny the appeal of the Borough land management proposal called Elbasan Acres.

What does this mean?

The Planning Commission tonight affirmed the Jan 30, 2013 decision of the Platting Board to approve Elbasan Acres in North Pole.

What is Elbasan Acres?

The Borough proposal to develop Borough land included a school site for an elementary school and possibly a second school on Borough land near the intersection of Repp and Hollowell Roads. In addition, it includes at least 115 home sites, perhaps up to 200 home sites, in a new subdivision near Brock and Repp Roads.

What’s the harm of Elbasan Acres?

The school and major subdivision would be located just outside the PM 2.5 nonattainment area, outside any protections or controls eventually applied inside the nonattainment area. Residents in the area and the students and staff at the new school would be at increased risk of premature death from lung or heart problems associated with highly polluted air.

In addition, putting these house lots on the market will further saturate an already struggling housing market, driving down private property values and harming the interests of current private property owners in the area.

Isn’t there a requirement to “protect and improve” health, safety, and welfare?

In the past, yes, when the landowner was a private property owner. But when the applicant is the Borough itself, apparently not. The code requirement applies to all property owners without exception. The Planning Commission decision tonight authorizes the Borough to ignore this provision of code for this particular subdivision and school.

Can the decision be appealed?

Yes, to state superior court.

If Jeanne Olson, the appellant, decides to appeal, your donation will be essential. If you’d like to pledge your support now, please send a message of your interest to cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com. Jeanne has already made significant commitments of time, energy, and expenses to bring the appeal to the Planning Commission.

Are other approvals needed for Elbasan Acres?

The Assembly will need to approve funding to construct the roads, survey the lots, and build the school. The Assembly has full authority to deny funds for these expenses and stop Elbasan Acres.


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Don’t rely on the front page article on the Elbasan Acres appeal of a major borough subdivision and school site. The Elbasan Acres appeal will be decided by the Planning Commission tonight. The “news” article largely derives from an article published over two months ago when the appeal was first filed: Appeal filed against North Pole development proposal 2/8/2013 FDNM.

Is Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reporting frozen in time as though the April 16 appeal hearing never occurred?

This morning, Clean Air Fairbanks sent the reporter, Matt Buxton, these concerns:

To: Matt Buxton – FDNM <mbuxton@newsminer.com>
CC: Mary Beth Smetzer, FDNM <msmetzer@newsminer.com>,  Sam Bishop, FDNM <sbishop@newsminer.com>,  Dermot Cole, FDNM <cole@newsminer.com>
Date:  Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 11:05 AM
Subject: Elbasan Acres FDNM article

Fairbanks borough commission to decide Elbasan Acres tonight 4/30/2013 FDNM

Today’s front page article doesn’t do justice to the testimony or appeal points submitted to the Planning Commission.

This article is incorrect. The platting decision approves all 5 phases and a site for an elementary school that may also be used for another school, not “about 20 lots” and a site for a school. It appears you may have only heard Land Management’s side and not spoken to Jeannie, Wes Madden, or Gene DuVal.

The article is also incomplete:

    • No mention that it adds further injury to private property values and owners in North Pole’s real estate market that is in a nose-dive. Wes Madden and Gene DuVal supported the appeal as witnesses.
    • No mention of requirement in Borough Code of Ordinance that platting decisions must “protect and improve” health, safety, and welfare.
    • No mention that the Planning Commission used this same Borough Code of Ordinance requirement in the past to block a development on private property proposed by a private property owner but now, with the Borough as both property owner and applicant, the Borough is pursuing its self-interest but ignoring the “protect and improve” health, safety, and welfare requirement in code.
    • No mention that air pollution levels near this site have been recorded as the highest concentrations in the nation, worse than Woodriver and Watershed, worse than nearly every monitored city in the world.
    • No mention that it is unsafe to locate a school or a hundreds of new families in such pollution and endangers lives.
    • No mention that the Borough risks its own assets for harm it causes to both property values and health.
    • No mention that all public testimony to the Platting Board raised health, safety, and welfare concerns and was ignored. No changes were made to Borough Land Management’s proposed conditions or finding of fact.
    • No mention that during the Planning Commission appeal hearing all testimony, excepting that from Borough Land Management, raised these health, safety, and welfare concerns and supported the appeal.
    • No mention that Dr Jim Conner submitted: “This development is very close to an already polluted area and will likely contribute to more wood/coal smoke in the borough non-attainment area.”
    • No mention that Borough maps provided with the appeal, and in the public record, show this area has unhealthy air pollution when other areas of the nonattainment area are less polluted. The air pollution is not the same across the borough; this area is worse.
    • No mention that the site is OUTSIDE the PM 2.5 nonattainment area, and the state has no plan to control pollution sources across the boundary line in the SIP which, as you know, is overdue by 137 days.
    • No mention that the school superintendent supports the site for one or two schools.
    • No mention that Dr Peter Marshall was a witness in favor of the appeal.
    • No mention that a number of residents were prevented from testifying during the hearing under new interpretations of existing code. Residents who use the land currently, could have children at the school, could be assigned to teach at the school, and whose property values will decline, were blocked from testifying by the Planning Commission chair.

We recommend contacting Wes Madden, Gene DuVal, Dr Jim Conner, Dr Peter Marshall, and Superintendent Pete Lewis, in addition to Jeanne Olson, if you have not already done so. Tonight’s decision is vastly more significant than 20 house lots and a site for a school.

As of this posting, Mr Buxton has not replied or updated the article online.

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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 <mayor@fnsb.us>,
Jim Conner – FNSB Air Quality Specialist <jconner@fnsb.us>,
Joy Shockley Huntington – Chair <joy.shockley@tananachiefs.org>,
David C Lanning <lanningak@acsalaska.net>,
B Kevin McCarthy <kevin@northpolegallery.com>,
Thomas E. Marsh <temarsh@jantz.net>,
Marna Sanford <marna_k@hotmail.com>,
David Pruhs <dpruhs@gci.net>,
Tim Sovde <so_v_de@hotmail.com>,
Gregory D. Bringhurst <gregbringhurst@gmail.com>,
Sara Mason <sara.mason@alaska.gov>,
Jerry McBeath <gamcbeath@alaska.edu>,
Superintendent Pete Lewis <superintendent@k12northstar.org>,
Kristina Brophy – President <kristina.brophy@k12northstar.org>,
Heidi Haas – Vice President <heidi.haas@k12northstar.org>,
John Thies – Treasurer <john.thies@k12northstar.org>,
Sean Rice – Clerk <sean.rice@k12northstar.org>,
Lisa Hall <lisa.hall@k12northstar.org>,
Sue Hull <hull@gci.net>,
Charlie Leonelli <charlie.leonelli@k12northstar.org>,
Colonel Thomas Daack – Base Rep <thomas.daack@us.af.mil>,
Colonel Ron Johnson – Post Rep <ronald.johnson@us.army.mil>,
Hanna Brewer – Student Rep <hanna_brewer@hotmail.com>

Please CC:
Clean Air Fairbanks <cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com>

The following Community Perspective by appellant Jeanne Olson, DVM, was published today.

Community Perspective: Borough’s plan comes up again on Tuesday night 4/29/2013 FDNM

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 cafesocietyfordogs@gmail.com.

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Letter to the Editor by Cheryl Beckley, North Pole, Subdivision issues 4/26/2013 FDNM

As I sat in on the borough Planning Commission’s meeting about the proposed residential neighborhood and elementary school in North Pole on Repp and Brock roads, I was left wondering. The school is desperately needed in North Pole, which we all agree on. But when pressed as to how to justify that particular location, seeing the air quality rivals that of Woodriver Elementary on its worst days, the commission backtracked and said, “Well, the school doesn’t have to go in there, we can wait on that.”

Then why is it OK to throw another 115 woodstoves over there? And 115 idling cars, at minimum?

If the site is a new school location — and I’ve seen the letters back and forth from the land management department to the school district to the platting board indicating its approval by all three — why then, when pressed about the health, safety and welfare of these kids and all of us neighbors, did the commission backtrack and say “Oh, we don’t need to put the school there.”?

Either this is for the school congestion solution or its bottom line is the borough making a profit off land sales regardless of the effect on the home sales market. Testimony from two independent realtors confirmed the North Pole market is behind by eight months. Who will buy these small, 1.2-acre parcels? They’ll just be destroying the forest over there at Brock and Repp (our only source of filtering this low-lying area’s air pollution) to have parcel after parcel sit empty and then still not build a school because the air quality in this particular location is horrendous. Or they’ll build these 115 homes and the school, and all of us will suffer the health issues.

We need a new school no doubt, but there is a huge amount of borough land on the Old Richardson Highway and Bradway that needs to be looked at, as it sits in a better type of geography for air flow. No, Brock is not the best place, health-wise, for the school. Let’s keep looking.

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Elbasan Acres Appeal Hearing by the FNSB Planning Commission
Tuesday, April 16 at 7:00 pm
Assembly Chambers, Borough Admin Center, 809 Pioneer Road, Fairbanks
Contact:  Jeanne Olson, 1890 Hollowell Road, North Pole <corvi@mosquitonet.com> 488-8800 home

The public is invited to attend a quasi-judicial hearing by the Planning Commission of the Fairbanks North Star Borough on the citizen appeal of Elbasan Acres. The appeal was filed by Jeanne Olson, DVM, in objection to the Platting Board’s decision to approve a large subdivision with 115 lots and a new elementary school site near Brock, Repp, and Hollowell Roads in North Pole. The applicant is the Land Management Department of the Borough.

Members of the public may be allowed to testify for three minutes regarding the appeal if they meet an “interested persons” criteria administered by the Planning Commission Chair at the beginning of the hearing, see “interested persons17.80.030 D.

Members of the FNSB Planning Commission:

David C. Lanning <lanningak@acsalaska.net>
B. Kevin McCarthy <kevin@northpolegallery.com>
Thomas E. Marsh <temarsh@jantz.net>
Marna Sanford <marna_k@hotmail.com>
David Pruhs <dpruhs@gci.net>
Tim Sovde <so_v_de@hotmail.com>
Gregory D. Bringhurst <gregbringhurst@gmail.com>
Joy Shockley Huntington, Chair <joy.shockley@tananachiefs.org>
Sara Mason <sara.mason@alaska.gov>
Jerry McBeath <gamcbeath@alaska.edu>

Ms. Olson’s appeal presentation will include:

  • A call to uphold the requirement in Title 17 to “Protect and improve the health, safety, and general welfare of the people of the borough.”
  • Evidence that this is one of the worst air polluted areas in the Borough and the nation. Children and staff deserve a new elementary school with healthy air.
  • Evidence that creating this Borough subdivision will cause hardship to existing private property owners by flooding an already saturated and unstable real estate market. Elbasan Acres will only add to the inventory of unsold property, increasing the downward pressure on our home values.
  • Evidence that the approved Master Plan developed by citizens with the Brock Road Working Group during meetings from 1998-2003 was ignored, and that staff did not attempt to notify these citizens of the new plan for the area.

These and other issues presented in the Notice of Appeal are available here.

In addition to attending the hearing, Ms. Olson encourages supporters to sign the online petition on Change.org. Now has 131 signatures!

>> Link to Planning Commission agenda for April 16 meeting and appeal hearing

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Andrew and Gloria Straughn scorched through a recent weekend. The couple are named as defendants by Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, plaintiff, in a civil case filed in Superior Court Jan 3, 2013. The couple have two outdoor wood boilers across the street from Woodriver Elementary that have generated smoke pollution since they were installed in 2008.

Hey, it’s the weekend. Why not fire both up?

So, yeah, their neighbors noticed. Who wouldn’t? DEC, that’s who.

5055 Palo Verde Ave 2013-01-26

5055 Palo Verde Ave, Fairbanks, Alaska

58 Trinidad Dr 2013-01-26

58 Trinidad Dr, Fairbanks, Alaska

5055 Palo Verde Ave 2013-01-27

5055 Palo Verde Ave, Fairbanks, Alaska

Pre-Trial Scheduling Conference: March 18, 2013

>> Link: CourtView – search for Case 4FA-13-01205CI, defendants – Andrew and Gloria Straughn

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A new report on the harm to residents and the need for voter support of the Healthy Air Protection Act has been published by Clean Air Fairbanks

Link: Sickened by Smoke: the Harm of PM 2.5 Pollution and the Opportunity for Voters to Help July 2011. [1.3MB]

The report includes effects on health, summaries of public testimony from smoke victims,  measured concentrations from monitoring data including maps generated by the borough’s “sniffer” vehicle, winter source contributions, graphs of the growing number of public complaints, public records of life and safety impacts, agency enforcement to date, property rights vs the right not to be injured debate, economic impacts of continued nonattainment, and options including voter approval of the Healthy Air Protection Act.

The report is intended to inform voters in advance of the advance of the October 4, 2011 municipal election.

Visit Healthy Air Now for more on the ballot proposition and how to donate and volunteer.

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