The city of Palmer is at the heart of the Matanuska Susitna Borough’s District Two. Palmer has maintained its rural small town appeal over the years, although housing developers are homing in on it’s nearby cleared farm fields. District Two incumbent Noel Woods says he grew up here, arriving as a pre teen in 1945 and finishing high school with the kids of the Colonists. He’s seen those fields change a lot.
“People that would like to farm hate to see buildings being built. But, you know, the price now, per acre, doesn’t fit into a farmer’s schedule.”
Woods farmed potatoes for decades and saw prices drop dramatically. He has since sold his agricultural land, and now says he is solidly pro-development. And his is the first to say that the Borough Assembly has little to do with Palmer land issues
“It’s all private property. Farmland is not valued at anywhere near other property values. I farmed for twenty years, the last ten years my wife and I together.”
But challenger Matthew Beck, says the quiet life is why people choose to live in Palmer, and he thinks the Borough could do a better job of working with farmers on land issues. He says farmers who want to buy ag land can’t compete with developers who will pay more than the land is worth.
“People are afraid of what it’s doing to our farmland. How can we protect our history and make sure that remains part of the equation. We want to be careful not to lose that feeling. “
Beck works as a life director at a local church, and co owns a business with his wife. The District Two race is his first attempt at political office
“I was involved in a couple of issues over the last couple of years. One involved the state trying to punch a road through the middle of a piece of farmland, and we were able to stop that project from happening. After I had some success with that and another issue in our district, my neighbors who are the farmers asked me to step up and run, and that’s my motivation.”
Woods says the Borough Assembly in general supports development, because property taxes alone are not enough to pay for the area’s rapidly growing school enrollment
“That’s really a major aspect of what we do on the Assembly. Make sure that we can keep schools repaired, new schools coming up with the population, so it keeps us on our toes. “
Woods supports the Assembly efforts to build up the Borough’s economy through industrial projects like the railroad spur to Port MacKenzie, the Goose Creek prison and proposed coal mines near Palmer
“What we’re looking at at the moment is a tremendous influx of new people who come in here because housing and living conditions are less crowded and, because they say more bang for the buck over here. But when they do that, taxes on housing really doesn’t pay for all the amenities that people would like. So what we are trying to do with this development is offer opportunities for good paying jobs. “
Beck points to possible growth in tourism, senior care and education sectors, as well as the upcoming Glenn Highway improvement project.And , Beck says he’s on board with the proposed Susitna Watana dam, and with a planned townsite near Port MacKenzie
” I kinda like the idea that they are thinking ahead with the township out towards the spur and the Port. If you kinda thought that way and kinda set space aside for this is a great place for a neighborhood to be developed, here’s a nice place for industry, here’s be a nice place for a city center. You could actively go and search out people to come out and to work here. “
Beck says he’ll bring a new perspective to the Assembly
“I certainly don’t want to slow the development boat, but what I’d like to do is just bring a new view to it, caution it. There’s Borough Assembly members who even though they say they support farming. They themselves own a farm but they sold the farm out from under the family. Now that piece of farmland that was farmed for decades and decades is now being developed.”
On October first, Valley voters will decide.