Petersburg’s planning commission hopes to be voting next month on recommended changes to the borough’s newly adopted development code. That will be after the borough notifies owners of industrial property about potential changes to allowable uses of that land. They’re also reconsidering a change that allows manufactured homes on residential property.
The commission has faced push back from industrial property owners, some over tighter restrictions to residential use of that land. Others have objected to the new kinds of industrial property that are created in the development code approved in December and some of the limitations those new classifications bring.
Heather O’Neil owns industrial land and wants to keep her options open.
“I don’t know why you would want to limit my activities,” told the commission at a meeting this month. “They’re not harmful loud, noisy, chemically or dangerous activities. They consist of rooming houses, boarding houses, overnight dwellings basically. And when you take away potential uses, you take away value.”
The commission has agreed to consider a conditional use permit for residential uses in a one category, now called general industrial property. Under the new code, a new category called light industrial would be more permissive for some residential use but would limit some heavy industry uses. And a third category called waterfront industrial would be the most restrictive for non-industrial use. The commission has tried to protect that waterfront land for industrial use while also limiting conflicts between homes and industry.
Meanwhile, commissioners have been willing to approve many of the changes to the proposed zoning map requested by property owners. While they take another look at the overall development code this spring, they’re gathering more requested changes to the proposed zoning map and they’ll take those up at a later date.
Commission chair Chris Fry wanted to vote on changes to the development code in May.
““If we have a list of changes then at the next meeting we can go through and vote on those changes one at a time and then probably the following meeting we vote on the whole thing as a package recommending the changes that we’ve made up to the borough assembly at that point,” Fry said. “We’d have two more meetings for people to comment before it goes up to the borough assembly.”
The commission voted 5-0 to approve that schedule, which puts them voting overall recommendation in June. A number who have come out to testify have asked for notifications by mail to all impacted property owners. Others also wanted it published in the newspaper and discussed on the radio. That notification process could also push back the review schedule.
The commission also heard more push back against the change that allows newer manufactured homes, formerly called mobile homes, on residential property throughout service area one. The old code did not permit those structures on land zoned for single family residential use. Kathi Riemer said she gathered signatures from 107 people against that change. Both Riemer and contractor Gary Aulbach researched prices for putting in a manufactured home here. And they both agreed that the prices for land in town and other requirements put it out of reach for people looking to put in cheaper housing. Aulbach said he contacted companies in Washington, Oregon and Idaho and none said they would ship a manufactured home to Petersburg.
“I’m all for affordable housing but I don’t think you can get really affordable housing without it being bulk,” Aulbach said. “I don’t think you can go buy your own residential lot which is going to be 40-60,000 dollars and then try to jump through all these hoops and get it on there. It’s still going to be only 10,000 dollars cheaper than building a house. So that’s not affordable to the people that are looking for affordable. I think you gotta do it bulk and I think you’re going to have to get some borough land or something and then build apartments.”
The new code doesn’t allow older mobile or trailer homes on land that was single family residential. It defines manufactured homes as those that can be moved on the highway, have been built after 1976 and are built to federal housing standards. There are also additional local requirements for putting in those buildings. Last month commissioners talked about having a conditional use permit process for building these types of homes on land that is single family residential.
Lyle Bennett wanted to keep trailer homes in designated areas.
“I’ve taken numerous people from Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau around the loop and different places all around town here,” Bennett said. “One of the first questions they ask me, where’s all the trailers. And I says they’re in the trailer park because they’re not allowed to put them up wherever they want to. And their first comment is, boy I wished we’d done it. Because I can have a 300,000 dollar house and a 2500 trailer in the lot next door to me. It doesn’t look good. It never will.”
The manufactured home change was meant to provide more affordable housing in town. The new code also allows a detached second dwelling unit or tiny home on residential land. Other property owners like Casey Flint, have regretted a loss in value for property that has been zoned for mobile homes.
“I’ve recently bought a piece of property that included some portion of mobile home park, which is now going to be high-density residential,” Flint said. “To me that had value in future revenue generation. And to see this idea of mobile homes going on any lot in town really devalued that possibility of generating revenue when they’ll just go anywhere.”
The commission was convinced to consider a change to remove the allowance for manufactured homes on all but high-density residential land.
Audience members suggested the planning commission form a committee to look at creating more affordable housing. Commissioner Dave Kensinger, attending by phone, thought it was a worthy topic.
“I agree that it’s something that is going to take a lot more time than we’re able to do in our forum but I think it’s an issue that we’re going to have to look at a little bit harder,” Kensinger said. “And I think a couple of the suggestions are pretty good. And I think we need to get some more input on the community. I think we’ve got quite a bit already but it’d be nice to get a little more input about it and let people know exactly what we’re talking about and looking at.”
The commission voted unanimously to recommend the borough assembly designate a committee to investigate the topic.