A Vision For Chugiak Eagle River
Joe Wright and Donn Liston with Eagle River mountainscape in the background.
(Photo by Waneta Liston.)
Members of the EaglExit Board of Directors may have different visions for what they believe is best for the area now known as Assembly District 2 (AD2) but Joseph Wright looks at what is happening in today’s world and believes responsible residents should strive for the same values as were important to the founding fathers of the United States of America.
After all, Alaska is still the American Frontier.
I look at it historically like the Founding Fathers looked at government. Two-hundred and fifty years ago Philadelphia was 40,000 people and that has shown to be a good size for a well-run city, explained Wright. Anchorage today is too large, the Anchorage School District is too big, We can’t even get adequate police support out here; they begrudgingly send officers here when it is needed. Obviously it is good that we have lower crime, but we are paying for that service.
Municipality of Anchorage Building Fees:
More autonomy will mean more control over costs and services.
I first came to Alaska at age 17, continued Wright. My family was in the (San Francisco, California) Bay Area; I came to Alaska with my aunt and uncle and we lived on Tanglewood Drive over in West Anchorage/Turnagain and Spenard. I went into the Navy as Alaska was going into the mid-1980s recession. On two Navy assignments I was stationed back here in Alaska, one of which we had a home on Campbell Lake, and in the other we had a home in Midtown Anchorage.
A pretty typical Alaskan story of having the option to live anywhere and choosing this state for reasons many people in other places will never understand.
My drive to live in Eagle River goes back to 1983-84 when my Uncle Jim, who was a police officer with APD was helping a friend the way Alaskans do, and was doing tongue and groove inside the house, continued Wright. I experienced Eagle River then; getting up on the mountains and seeing the vastness we wake up to every day out here. So when I retired from the Navy my wife and I were looking forward to returning to Alaska and she got picked up for the produce manager at the military commissary. She transferred up here while I was finishing up in Seattle, my final assignment in the military I was responsible for the Pacific Northwest—Alaska, Washington, Montana and Idaho—and we knew Eagle River was the place we wanted to be. We have a place on the Deshka River as well. I am also president of the Deshka Landing Association. We knew what it was like on the South Side, we knew West Anchorage but Eagle River is a completely different community than Anchorage.
And, living here is a choice requiring initiative to locate here.
It has been almost 14 years that we have lived here in Eagle River since I retired, said Wright. What I have seen over this time--as an active member of the community council--I can tell you we don’t have the representation on the Anchorage Municipal Assembly or at-large elected Anchorage School Board for the distinct needs out here. Dealing with the Anchorage bureaucracy, it is obvious Chugiak/Eagle River is on its own. The more Anchorage continues to change in the direction it is going the more we realize our lifestyle here is in jeopardy.
Wright has seen the problem with changes in Title 21 and Title 23 for building codes and safety requirements.
Anchorage has established a Building Safety Area (BSA) in the original townsite, said Wright. So when the Municipality formed, Chugiak, Eagle River, Girdwood fell under State “land use.” Everything still has to be built to code but the question is how much additional oversite should we have to endure with the MOA? Around 2008-2009, which was about the same time I started working for Otis Elevator, we started seeing a lot of changes in Title 21 and in Title 23 creating a lot more building regulation. Regardless of how people may feel about that, it also led to increased permit costs.
Increased costs impact whether construction can happen.
The MOA has been developing its own building safety expectations from within, continued Wright. Places like Houston, Texas, don’t even have the level of code enforcement we have. It is a city that is comparable but what they have done here is look at the average cost of a project, costing tens of thousands of dollars more to build in the Anchorage, while that same house in the Mat-Su Valley would fall under the State code.
Wright continued: Another one of the problems of that is the amount of over-inspection. In the case of elevator inspections, which should take two hours, if you can do it in two then why not do it in eight hours?
He says the added costs translate to decreased development. A lot of construction contractors look at those costs and choose to build elsewhere; that is what we are seeing in the valley right now.
So an answer to those who ask how much more they can expect to pay if AD2 becomes its own city or borough, is that it will be up to free will people who are already paying for services previously done by the MOA, services moved out from under the statutory tax cap to accommodate other spending in other areas.
Other Eagle River Business and EaglExit stories for informed citizens to consider:
Our Public Education Challenge
Matanuska Brewing Company Innovates
Looking Back, And A Vision for the Future
What Happened to Anchorage Hospitality?
The Cozy Side of Eagle River
Pandemic Business Survivor ER Small Engine Repair
Decentralize Anchorage. It Really is Our Only Solution
How Can Alaska Gain Food Security?
Eaglexit’s New Validation
Is Eagle River ready for a Divorce?