Years-Long Debate Ends with Passage of Title 21
After a decade and hundreds of revisions, the city's land-use code was voted into law
ANCHORAGE - A long debate over land use codes known as Title 21 is finally over. The Anchorage Assembly passed the document late Tuesday night. Some say it was a ten-year battle, since that’s how long it's been since the original work rewriting Anchorage’s land use codes began. There were major changes after Mayor Sullivan came into office, and last night the Assembly added over 100 amendments to make even more.
Title 21 talks about how Anchorage will look in the future, what kind of housing can be built. It also defines the rules for commercial and retail development. Some call the document a big step forward, but one area in particular is drawing criticism. Assembly members voted to drop the commercial design standards that some say would have made the town more pedestrian-friendly. Long time realtor Mike McLane calls that a big mistake.
“We are not looking far enough ahead,” said McLane. “We are looking at the next five years so people can build their buildings, fill them up with tenants, make their profits and retire someplace else.”
But others say developers may not build at all if they encounter too many rules. Architect Daniela Valenote said she too would like to see a more pedestrian-friendly town, but worries that developers might not be willing to invest in the improvements.
“I know plenty of contractors who are not in business anymore” said Valenote. “So when you inhibit developers, the developers are going to shy away.”
The new ordinance does make it easier to put residential space in areas zoned for commercial use, like building apartments above existing businesses. It also requires more sidewalks in subdivisions to make it easier and safer to get around.