Assembly Report for May 15, 2007
THINGS ARE SLOWING DOWN, SO WHY NOT REVISIT THE SIGN ORDINANCE? A women bakes cookies in her home in rural Chugiak and advertises her home occupation with a sign painted on her automobile. She parks her car in her driveway. Along comes Zoning Enforcement who says the advertisement for her business on the family car is illegal because it constitutes a prohibited "sign" in a residential area. The neighbor goes to Chugiak’s Debbie Ossiander who has her attorney write an ordinance exempting signs on vehicles from residential zoning regulations governing signs. Enter the city’s planning staff who correctly note that under the Ossiander ordinance, signs or logos painted on vehicles could include huge advertisements that would resemble portable billboards. Inflammatory pictures showing Spam advertised on the sides of motor homes are presented to the Assembly. Worse still, staff argues, Debbie’s ordinance contains no limit as to the number of vehicles, each bearing commercial logos, which could be tucked away in residential cul de sacs and driveways. That’s fine with Debbie, but not other members of the Assembly who promptly began debating all of the fine points of sign painting on vehicles, permissible weights of vehicles allowed in residential neighborhoods, the number of axles allowed on vehicles, the First Amendment, and the changing nature of the rural economy where more people are turning to home occupations for a living.
After almost an hour of debate, the Assembly did what it does best: postpone action on the ordinance until June 12, pending further review of the ordinance by Ossiander and Dan Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan has plenty of experience in amending the city’s sign law: He led the efforts by Assembly conservatives in 2006 to roll back improvements made in the sign code by a previous Assembly and to save those large non conforming pole signs from city regulation.
ML&P: ROUND TWO: Apparently not satisfied with the sound thumping given the Administration at its last meeting over construction of a new headquarters building for Municipal Light and Power (ML&P), Assembly members pounded the mayor’s effort to go ahead with its plan to replace an aging utility building currently located atop contaminated soil in the Ship Creek Area. At issue Tuesday night was a memorandum presented by the City which outlined a new, competitive process for the project. Deputy city manager Mike Abbott argued the memo responded to all of the objections made by the Assembly when it rejected the mayor’s original proposal on May 1, 2007 to build the new facility in the new Glenn Square mall in Mountain View. After lengthy debate, the Assembly voted 9-2 to postpone action on the Administration’s newest proposal pending review of the entire package by an ad hoc committee consisted of Assembly members Shiela Sellkregg, Dan Sullivan, and Chris Birch.
Arguing that the mayor’s approach left too many questions unanswered, Assembly member Chris Birch raised an Ossiander of concerns ranging from the fundamental need to relocate the ML&P facility, the scoring to be used to determine winning proposals, space requirements, and argued the project should not be competitively bid until a site for the headquarters building were first selected. "Foul" cried the administration who correctly pointed to the Assembly’s earlier decision rejecting the Mountain View site, noting that the Administration had includedthe very competitive process the Assembly had earlier mandated. In any event, the Assembly is now in the business of setting detailed criteria for this project, promising many more weeks of controversy.
CHUGIAK-EAGLE RIVER ROAD PLAN APPROVED: With amendments offered by Chugiak’s Debbie Ossiander and Bill Starr, the Assembly on Tuesday passed a long range transportation plan (LRTP) for the Chugiak-Eagle River area. Under the plan as adopted, the highest priority project is a four mile strech of the Glenn Highway at Eagle River Road from Highland Drive to Artillery Road. With support from the municipal administration, different strategies for addressing congestion along the Glenn were prioritized, with "road improvements" awarded the top priority and "consideration of commuter rail" shoved down the bottom of the list. Again, with support from the city, a comment in the draft plan that building more roadway will only attract additional drivers and that the municipality "cannot build . . [its] way out of congestion" was stripped from the plan, revealing a policy preference for even wider roads and more private automobiles as the solution for highway congestion.