The Bethel Planning Commission has approved with conditions Sen. Lyman Hoffman’s preliminary proposal for a residential project called Blue Sky Estates. But much still needs to be resolved before approval would be final. The proposed subdivision of 82 lots would wrap like a horseshoe around Larson subdivision and sit on 22 acres of land.
The city has considered this subdivision twice before, once in 2007, and again in 2014, when it was approved with conditions. The 2014 proposal time period ended up lapsing under an 18 month time limit for submitting a final proposal.
The Planning Department’s Staff Report recommended approval of the preliminary proposal, along with 10 conditions on drainage, water and sewage plans and acknowledging the function of open space lots, to name a few.
On Thursday, a motion to approve with conditions was initially made by Commissioner Jon Cochrane, and seconded by Council Representative Mark Springer.
Amid initial concerns some Commission members had that the subdivision may strain city services, Cochrane said that’s the reality of the future for Bethel, regardless of whether the subdivision is built or not.
“YK is adding the jobs. The population is going up,” said Cochrane. “It’s going to mean more need for fire, more need for police, more need for the sewer lagoon. It’s all going up whether they build the subdivision or not.”
With further discussion and clarification, the Commission, all except Commission Chair Kathy Hanson, not present, passed the proposal with conditions.
Representing Blue Sky for Sen. Hoffman was his son-in-law, Hugh Short. A new subdivision, Short said, would alleviate some of the stress on Bethel's high priced housing market, which will continue to rise without new developments.
“It’s incredibly expensive to live here. In fact, this is usually one or two, and the most expensive rental markets in the state of Alaska,” said Short.
Short said Sen. Hoffman, as the property owner, has followed the ordinance to the T and has a right to develop on his property.
William Montgomery, among other Larson subdivision residents, still has concerns with what the new subdivision may bring: from possibly straining the water and sewer system, to the unknown number of family households able to reside on each lot, to quality of life, as the new housing may obstruct Larson's view of the open tundra.
Montgomery also said all Bethel residents should have been sent notification, rather than just those living in or near Larson. He says that the proposed subdivision affects all of Bethel and that the information they did receive was lacking.
“There is a lot of information in this, frankly, one page notice that is lacking. As an attorney I usually like to see a lot more information in something than [just] an illegible map on the back and not really much information on the front,” said Montgomery.
Following the Planning Commission’s decision, Blue Sky Estates will need to comply with the conditions laid forth, create a subdivision agreement, and submit a final proposal for approval. The City would only approve the proposal once it deems all the conditions have been met.