Borough officials in Ketchikan are eyeing more action to ease the community’s housing crunch.
Ketchikan’s Borough Assembly passed a package of reforms earlier this month aimed at allowing more people into existing lots. Now, the assembly is scheduled to hold an informal work session on Monday to plan its next steps, says Assistant Borough Manager Cynna Gubatayao.
“The borough, realistically, is not going to be building apartments. We’re not going to be building houses or operating or managing residential units. Our role is going to be more in the line of reducing development barriers,” Gubatayao said in a phone interview on Friday.
One way to do that is to simply sell land for housing. Gubatayao says the borough has nearly 200 tracts of land on the books, and more than half of those are at least an acre in size. Planning and Community Development Director Richard Harney says the assembly will hear a presentation about some land that might be useful for housing development.
“We’re going to kind of give a real high-level overview of all the borough lands that we have — where they’re at, what they consist of, what their zonings are, that sort of thing and just kind of look at it from a broad perspective,” Harney said by phone Friday.
Harney says they’ll also discuss a long-stalled project that would make it easier to develop housing in designated wetland areas. The so-called Bear Valley Mitigation Bank would take development off the table for some areas designated as wetlands by the Army Corps of Engineers. Harney says that would make it cheaper and easier to build homes in other wetland areas more suited for housing — and maybe make the borough some money.
“What we’re trying to do is create a mitigation bank, and what that does is provide us — or the owner of the property, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough — credits that then we could either sell or utilize for doing development,” he said. “So building roads or building homes, those type of developments.”
Also at Monday’s meeting, , Ketchikan’s Borough Assembly is expected to approve its top priorities for the governor and state lawmakers. The top priority is housing — the borough is expected to ask the state to transfer land in the Mud Bight and Mountain Point areas to the borough to open up a total of about 160 home sites. Other top issues include education funding, cruise ship taxes and ferry service.
Ketchikan’s Borough Assembly meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the White Cliff building. The meeting is broadcast on the borough’s website and on local cable channels. Members of the public have a chance to weigh in at the beginning of the meeting.