An Anchorage consulting firm spent several days last week gathering input on the future of Petersburg, the community’s challenges and biggest needs. That information will be used to draft two planning documents focusing on land use, development and harbor facilities. The planners are encouraging all residents of the borough to provide their ideas.

A team from Agnew Beck held two open house meetings with the public and also spent time meeting with students, seniors, business leaders and local government representatives in several days of outreach.

Blank paper and maps started to fill up with ideas and comments on the walls of Petersburg’s old library space during a night-time open house. Agnew Beck’s Shelly Wade encouraged the several dozen community members to write down their thoughts.

Checking out some of the ideas already written down, Petersburg’s planning and zoning commission chair Chris Fry was happy with the process. “We’re getting a lot of good input,” Fry said. “We really can’t stress enough that getting people from the community to, at least if nothing else do the survey online but get your input out there. We really wanna hear from you. Cause this is, the plan is what the people want and where they see the community going and what’s important to you in the community. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Photo courtesy of Petersburg Chamber of Commerce

Photo courtesy of Petersburg Chamber of Commerce

That online survey can be found on the borough website and it will be open until the middle of next month. It asks people their level of satisfaction with local government services, challenges in the community, adequacy of housing, and other ideas for new economic development opportunities or projects they’d like to see completed.

Up on the walls of the old library, ideas ranged from adding more low or middle income housing, exporting water, increasing recreational opportunities, improving ferry service and changing the name of Petersburg to Petersborough. Residents liked Petersburg’s small town qualities, good schools and cheap hydro electric power. And some of the challenges listed were jobs, housing and child care availability.

Judge magistrate Desi Burrell wanted to see programs for people who’ve spent time in court or jail. “We have three amazing out-patient treatment facilities here in Petersburg,” Burrell said. “They’re inundated with clients. The biggest need I think we see here in Petersburg is the need for in-patient or restorative justice type programs for those that have been incarcerated and are coming back into the communities and want to get a fresh start and don’t have the skills after quite a few years in jail versus those that probably don’t need to go to jail but they need more in-patient treatment to help them deal with the issues that got them before the courts in the first place.” Burrell noted the town’s drug problem touches all aspects of the community.

Another member of the community who turned out, Rick Braun was impressed with the list of accomplishments from the time the last comprehensive plan was adopted. “A lot of stuff’s been done but then again there’s been a lot of money that’s come down from the state,” he said. “So, I mean that’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to do so many improvements in town here. Which is kindof the way I think we want the community to grow, is I think most people maybe don’t want population growth we just want economic growth. Make things better for everyone, we just don’t need more people to do that.”

Braun wanted to see some improvement for the quality of life of people at lower income levels in town. “Improve their income, improve a lot of the social services that are available to them. You know, the people that are at the top, they’re taking care of, we don’t have to worry about them. I think bringing people up that are at the bottom is going to improve life for everyone. For example the childrens center, this should be a huge priority right now. There’s a waiting list there. If there was more opportunities there I think a lot of people’s lives would improve in this town. That’s just one example.”

Braun is also on the borough’s land selection committee which will be using information from the comprehensive plan process to recommend future choices of state land parcels for the borough.
Besides a comprehensive plan that focuses in the entire community, the process also will result in a harbor master plan, looking at current facilities and future needs. Another participant, Steve Berry has leased land for boat work at the Scow Bay turnaround. He’s interested in seeing a wash down area for cleaning and painting boats in that area along with a dock for better access. Berry thinks there’s room for more businesses on that borough land. “You know the building I’m putting in I hope that will draw, I mean I don’t really wanna do all the work,” Berry said. “I’m hoping that contractors will come and use the building and shipwrights and different contractors will make use of it when I’m not using it. Then also there’s a lot of stuff going on out there now.” Berry also hopes to see water and sewer service extended into that property for future businesses.

The consultants will be compiling the survey results and public input and will be writing the draft comprehensive plan and harbor master plan over the next five months. Planning and Zoning chair Chris Fry said there will be other opportunities for input once the draft plans come out. “We’ll be going through and reviewing and taking more input once the draft copies get back. We’ll be trying to get them out to everybody in the community so at least you have chance to go take a look at ‘em, read through ‘em and see what you think, and if you say hey wait a minute, what about, we still have time to add things in at that point and make some minor changes. And I think it’ll be a good process. And we’re hoping we get a lot of involvement from the community.”

The consultants expect to be back in May and July to present the drafts and hope to complete the planning process by October.