Get involved with Denali Borough issues, Fall 2010

Legislative priorities will be discussed at upcoming Denali Borough Assembly meetings. Local residents will have the chance to provide input on what these priorities should be during the state’s upcoming legislative session.  In 2009 the Assembly included the Stampede State Recreation Area (SRA) in its top legislative priorities.  You can let the Assembly know that you support the Stampede SRA, or let them know of other priorities you support, by emailing the Assembly office at dbgovt@mtaonline.net or your local Assembly Member, or by attending the Assembly meeting at 6 pm on Wednesday, October 13th, at the McKinley Village Community Center, or the November meeting in Cantwell.

The Assembly also hopes the public will comment on a draft ordinance that would enable the tracking of natural resource harvest in the Denali Borough. Introduced at the September meeting by Robert Kohlsdorf, Ordinance 10-11 would require that nonresidents obtain a Harvest Permit from the Borough, detailing intended harvest of a wildland resource (“including animals, plants, and fungus,” with certain exceptions) and method of access.  A Harvest Report would be required, returned by the permit holder within 30 days of harvest or attempted harvest.  Various examples of high-density use were brought up, including tent cities set up by mushroom hunters. The Assembly discussed other methods of monitoring natural resource use on state and federal levels, but pointed out that reporting at state and federal levels is not always timely, and omits some of the details that could help to identify “management issues that require mitigation.” The Assembly approved a motion to consult with the Borough Attorney, Jim Gorski, on federal and state laws regarding this type of permitting.  They hope that the public will read the proposal and contact the Assembly with any comments or suggestions.  This ordinance is on the Agenda for the Assembly meeting on Wednesday, October 13th.

Also in September, Mayor Dave Talerico presented correspondence from the Borough attorney, Jim Gorski, regarded the Borough’s ability to levy taxes on gas production to the Assembly and Planning Commission. Gorski was asked to look into the legality of amending DB Code, Chapter 3.30 (Severance Tax), to allow for the taxing of natural or methane gas production.  Gorski’s letter indicated that the state’s rights pre-empted the right of a municipality to tax oil and gas production or extraction, including gas extracted from coal.  Gorski did point out, in his letter dated August 13th, 2010, that there is a potential for municipalities to put in place property taxes on oil or gas pipelines that travel through their borough.  He suggested that this “complex area of taxation” might be something that the Borough would want to explore if a gas bullet line were to cross through the Denali Borough.  The Assembly approved a motion to request Gorski to research the feasibility of a tax on the transportation of gas, although concerns were expressed regarding the tax, which a few Assembly members felt could inhibit or change local pipeline development plans.

The Denali Borough Landfill has had ongoing problems with bears visiting the site. For months there have been reports of one large adult bear, thought to have been born near the landfill and present in the area for several years, who visits the landfill at night, breaking the fence repairs that have to be made almost daily.  Mayor Dave Talerico reported during the August meeting that he had shot a bear the previous week when it had charged him.  This bear was not the landfill’s nightly regular, but instead a new visitor to the area.  The resident bear continues to be a problem, and the Department of Fish and Game has been notified, both of the shooting, and also the ongoing problems.  The Mayor reported that, after researching how to best bear-proof the landfill, fencing materials have been purchased, and quotes have been requested for the installation of a fence.  The Mayor is hopeful that this will resolve the bear-human conflicts and ensure the safety of landfill employees and customers.

Talking trash, the Mayor announced that GVEA is moving forward, working with Usibelli Coal Mine to develop a staging area in Healy for disposing of derelict or unwanted cars. Donating materials and manpower, collection dates and location will be available soon.  This partially resolves an issue that has been discussed for several months by the Assembly. The Assembly hopes to find an appropriate spot in Cantwell, so that residents in the southern communities also have a more convenient option to properly dispose of unwanted cars.  The location of a staging area has been discussed through the summer as a few different locations were suggested, contested, and discussed by nearby residents and concerned citizens.

In the Denali Borough Planning Commission, discussions continue on local land classification. During the September meeting the Commission took actions to postpone several proposed amendments to Borough code until they could solidify their amendments to Chapter 4.25 regarding land classification.  Classification discussion heated up this spring when the Planning Commission proposed classifying a gravel pit located on the boundary of the subdivision along the Stampede Road (recently transferred to the Borough via Municipal Land Entitlements) as Heavy Industrial.  The Planning Commission listened to the citizens that contacted them in slowing down their actions to find a classification that would more appropriately fit the gravel pit’s existing use, without opening the area to uses allowed under the Heavy Industrial classification.  The conversation will continue in upcoming Planning Commission meetings.

The Planning Commission is also discussing future possibilities for Municipal Land Entitlements from the state. They will be considering possibilities around Tonzona, Delta and Cantwell in upcoming meetings.  The next meeting will be held at 1 pm on Tuesday, October 19th, at the Tri-Valley Community Center (note new meeting time for winter season).

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