The village of Eklutna is now protected as a special area within the city of Anchorage. The Anchorage Assembly unanimously voted on Tuesday to create an overlay district to protect the 800 acres that are considered the to be the oldest continually inhabited Athabascan site in the region.
The crowd of 50 gave the council a standing ovation when they approved the new zoning law. The purpose of the new designation is to preserve the rural character and cultural uses of the village.
The purpose of the new designation is to preserve the rural character and cultural uses of the Native Village of Eklutna.
The special classification prohibits the city from building trails or running utilities through the area to protect the traditional community and the historic sites. It also allows community members to build multigenerational housing on single tracts for extended families and to build community smokehouses.
Much of the debate over the new zoning area questioned if the municipality was giving too much power to a corporation.
Assembly member Amy Demboski worried that giving Eklutna’s native corporation power to refuse utility easements could create a damaging precedent. She proposed an amendment that would have given the corporation the right to a 30 day notice for a utility easement, but not an automatic ability to prohibit them.
“It’s challenging for me when I look down to the future and I say for the first time in history, we are giving a corporation veto authority on a local government,” she said. “I absolutely respect the corporation. You are never going to find another better steward, better neighbor than this corporation. But what I am saying is I am not willing to give away the city’s power at this point, no matter how great the neighbor is.”
Eklutna Inc, the native corporation that’s associated with the village, has given the city land for greenbelts and utilities. They’ve also leased land for schools at only $10 per year.
Ultimately the Assembly, including Demboski, voted to approve the special zoning area without the amendment. Member Tim Steele said it was the right thing to do.
“Are we taking a risk? Sure. Are we doing something novel? Yes. It is respectful. It is about time. We haven’t always done some things right,” he said. “But this is right. This is a good thing. And I have a good feeling about it.”
Eklutna Inc. CEO Curtis McQueen said the designation will help preserve the history of the area for future generations. “We acknowledge culture through museums, through the heritage center. but the real museum is the village of Eklutna. And today a statement was made that the City of Anchorage recognizes and appreciates everything that Eklutna has done for the city and they paid it forward by recognizing the village.”
The Village of Eklutna is located northwest of the Glenn Highway and is bound by Cook Inlet. Most of the current utility easements run on the east side of the highway.
You can view the Assembly’s motion here.