Municipality updating Anchorage’s dated land use plan

Data is driving the formation of the newest Anchorage Bowl Land Use Plan Map. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)
Data is driving the formation of the newest Anchorage Bowl Land Use Plan Map. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)

The Municipality of Anchorage is well on its way to producing an updated land use plan for the Anchorage Bowl.

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The map currently in use has not been updated since 1982.

The most-recent projections – which have been adjusted since the price of oil has declined – anticipate Anchorage’s population will grow between 15,000 and 45,000 people within the next 25 years.

That means city planners need to figure out how Anchorage can change to accommodate the growth.

The municipality this week hosted two open houses, inviting the public to examine more than a dozen maps outlining everything from public transportation routes to zoning districts.

Jody Seitz, an associate planner for the municipality, is examining a color-coded map of Anchorage outlining exactly which parcels of land can be used and how restricted development is for each parcel.

“Each one of these purple places is a place that is not constrained by wetlands, seismic, topography, it’s the net-buildable land in Anchorage,” she said. “And you can see really quickly there’s really not much.”

The purple blocks of land Seitz is referring to are scattered around the map, but the parcels are small – very small.

Due in part to the city’s position between the Chugach Mountains and Cook Inlet, as well as a variety of state, military and federal lands, the municipality is limited in how far it can expand outwards.

Seitz says this leaves planners with some questions to answer:

“The question is, where do you put housing? How do you build the type of housing that is gonna use what we have efficiently?” she said. “And then how do you preserve the land for industry and commerce so that the people can have jobs?”

Housing and jobs are not the only questions in need of answers. Seitz says as Anchorage’s population grows, other community aspects, like schools, grocery stores and retail outlets, must be taken into account as well.

These are all issues municipal planners are trying to address with the updated Anchorage Bowl Land Use Plan Map. The plan lays the groundwork for what types of buildings can be built where, how dense development can be, and it will shape the aesthetic feel of neighborhoods and Anchorage as a whole.

Seitz says future developers will likely be working with existing land in need of revitalization.

“So that means that where buildings are deteriorated and really probably should come down, maybe they could be redeveloped,” she said. “Maybe where there’s vacant land, there could possibly be an in-fill project.”

“Then the question is, ‘How do you make that attractive, accessible and work with the whole area, so that you’re not just imposing something that’s completely out of character for the neighborhood?’”

The land around Anchorage is an intricate combination of housing, commercial and industrial areas mixed with space for schools, parks and numerous other things important to the community at large – including the preservation of the city’s green space.

The maps are not finalized, yet. Seitz says the feedback from the open house events – and other public comments – will be taken into account:

“We’re pulling together everything we can know about land use in Anchorage and making the best recommendations that we can in working with the community to really fine-tune those and determine, ‘what does the community really wanna see here?” Seitz said.

In addition to public comments, data ranging from the city’s wetlands designations and seismic characteristics, to population density and airport noise are all taken into account.

Public discussion on this version of the map ends April 29th. After that, the map will be adjusted based on public comments, then put forward to the planning and zoning commission for a public hearing. Then, later on, to the full Anchorage Assembly.