Assembly Passes Private Building Plan Review

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This week the Anchorage Assembly passed an ordinance that will impact how building plans are approved. The ordinance allows builders to have single-family and two-family residential construction plans OK’d by privately contracted engineers, rather than through the municipal process. Officials say it will speed up the permitting process.

The law passed by the Anchorage Assembly this week allows builders to bypass the municipal building process, and, instead, go through a privately-contracted engineer to get the go-ahead. Assembly member Adam Trombley wrote the ordinance. He says he introduced the ordinance at Tuesday’s Assembly meeting for several reasons

“I did it, number one, to make it more efficient, reduce the size and scope of government and make it less expensive for consumers,” Trombley said.

The Assembly passed the ordinance 9-2, with Assembly members Harriet Drummond and Elvi Gray-Jackon voting against it. Trombley says he hopes the new law could help speed up construction of single family and two-family residential units, of which there is a shortage. Mayor Dan Sullivan admits the building plan approval process can be cumbersome.

“The main concern you hear from builders is just time. It’s very time-consuming sometimes to get into the municipal process. You get into the queue behind, you know, many plans in front of you. And if the reviewer has a very troublesome set of plans then it takes longer and yours is sitting in the queue,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan emphasized that the new law only applies to plan review, not to actual construction. He says construction will still be inspected by city officials. And the municipality will still have the final word.

“We still at the city level will do the inspection out in the field as the house is being built. Our inspectors will go out to make sure that, from the foundation to the roof, that it does comply with code,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan added that private plan review is already in place in areas such as Chugiak, Eagle River, Girdwood, Indian Bear Valley and Stuck Again Heights. And the new ordinance just allows it in the Anchorage Bowl. The ordinance applies only to single-family and two-family residential construction plans – and only to new applications. It went into effect as soon as it was approved and is valid until Dec. 31, 2015.

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Daysha Eaton, KMXT - Kodiak
Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.