By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette
The Girdwood Area Plan (GAP) is in the multi-year process of being revised from the current 25-year old plan, and the community is being encouraged to give input along the way.
To learn more about what residents and stakeholders would like to see in the plan, GAP Committee Co-Chairs Janice Crocker and Eric Fullerton led the town hall titled Imagine! Girdwood at Girdwood K-8 School on April 29. Four Valleys Community School (FVCS) sponsored the program.
The Commons was filled, and people were standing or sitting around the room’s perimeter. To help facilitate the discussion and live survey were two women from Huddle AK, a process navigation and project management firm based in Anchorage.
To set the tone for the evening, Fullerton read the committee’s mission statement, which is, “To fund and complete a transparent, inclusive review of the Girdwood Area Plan to guide Girdwood land use in an orderly and understandable process that is respectful of all views.”
Fullerton explained how completing the GAP is a five-step process that will take about two years. Step One was data gathering, which was done by conducting an online Girdwood community survey in Jan./Feb. 2019. Imagine! Girdwood is part of the community visioning process in Step Two. The third step is goals and strategies planning, leading to Step Four, plan development and approval.
GAP adoption must follow a set process established by the Municipality. It starts with the two-month meeting cycle of new business and old business before Land Use Committee and Girdwood Board of Supervisors. If GAP receives approval, it moves to the Muni’s Heritage Land Bank and Planning Commission for review and revision. If approved, Anchorage Assembly reviews with another two-month meeting cycle of new business and old business before voting to accept or reject GAP. If the plan is accepted, Step Five is implementation, which depends on funding.
At this point in the town hall, children were encouraged to go to a breakout session in the art room. FVCS women asked the kids to imagine what they would like to see in Girdwood. They brainstormed ideas, which were written on a dry- erase board. Ideas ranged from the potentially possible such as a theater, batting cages and a covered skateboard area — all of which are potentially possible. Then there were the imaginative ideas of a space elevator, a cat farm and riding dragons to school. Further study is needed to see if loose cats and dragons will create problems in Girdwood Valley.
Then the kids took their ideas and drew them on sheets of paper to show what Girdwood’s future should look like. One drawing featured the space elevator and Girdwood Valley’s mountains enclosed in domes to allow for summer skiing. All of the 20 or so kids were engaged in the activity and sharing their work with others nearby.
Back in the Commons, audience members were given clickers to answer seven questions individually as a way to gather data from 155 people and discuss the results after each one. The format gave the audience a chance to address ideas that may have been overlooked or not included as options.
Question 1 asked what type of housing should be prioritized in Girdwood and presented six options, asking respondents to choose two. Small lot, single family was the top choice, followed by accessory dwelling units with three less votes. Question 2 asked about the percentage of gross income spent on housing.
The third question was about recreation, and it listed nine responses with the chance to pick two. The top pick by far was “New ‘narrow’ trails (~4ft wide; mountain biking, classic nordic, hiking/running, ungroomed trails).” Question 4 presented 10 responses with two choices for prioritizing future indoor recreation. The top response was a swimming pool, followed by a climbing wall and workout equipment.
The fifth question was about Girdwood’s priorities about roads and transportation priorities, with six options and two choices. The first pick was Seward Hwy safety improvements with public transportation options to Anchorage number two as the second. An audience member reminded people that Girdwood Service Area does not cover Seward Hwy, so projects on it cannot be funded with Girdwood taxes. Others pointed out that continued advocacy for Seward Hwy safety improvements are important for local and state legislators to understand as a state-wide issue.
Question 6 was about preferred recycling services. By a far margin, the favorite response was “Outdoor, centralized collection and transfer station with little staff oversight.”
The final question was about what how to designate land if there was an opportunity to do so, presenting nine options and two choices. An indoor multi-use recreation center was chosen first, closely followed by more housing. A little further behind and separated by one vote were commercial development (offices, stores, bank, healthcare) and Parks & Trails.
To see a copy of the Imagine! Girdwood questions and the results as well as other resourceful documents, go to girdwoodareaplan.org. The next Girdwood Area Plan Committee meeting is May 23 in the Girdwood Community Room at 6 p.m.