The “No” votes were from Chad Roberts and Tonya Brown. A person listening to the questions he asked various citizens while they testified could tell Mr. Roberts was distrustful of the plan. When public comments were closed and the resolution came up for discussion by the Council, he was plain in his distrust: “I’m pretty much a free-market guy,” he said. He seemed concerned that Vision Fairbanks, if adopted, would take away some freedom from business people to build and run their shops where and how they saw fit. He also said he thinks downtown is currently nice. (I only assume he meant that it was nice enough and needed no improvement.)
But Tonya Brown? She asked very few (if any) questions during citizens’ comments, and she had nothing to say during the Council’s discussion. No explanation for why she thought passing the resolution was a bad idea.
I’d like to think it was because the resolution itself was weak and vague, and she hoped for a stronger endorsement. What passed was full of caveats and mild statements of support. Here are some examples:
Whereas, [the plan] is acceptable to the City as a guide, not a legal mandate, for the future development of the Downtown … without the use of eminent domain; […]
Whereas, while funding for most elements of the Plan is unidentified, and there is concern that funding of some Plan elements may compete with other City projects, the City can play a role in supporting the Plan […]
Whereas, while the City Council does not support one Plan element, restricting development outside the Downtown core until 150,000 square feet of Downtown ground floor retail space is developed, [the plan] has the overall potential to enhance our community, …
And then the resolutions, that the City of Fairbanks:
- does not concur in the recommendation found at page 23 of [the plan] that local governments “initiate a process that explores policies … limiting or restricting the development of large anchor retail uses outside of the downtown until […]
- applauds the enthusiasm and hard work of those who took part in the development of the Vision Fairbanks Downtown Plan,
- recommends that the [Assembly] carefully consider the amendment of Comprehensive Land Use Plan to include recommendations of the Vision Fairbanks Downtown Plan through a continuing public process without the use of eminent domain.
So the Assembly should “carefully consider” amending our land use plan? Frankly, this is a gutless resolution that shows no enthusiasm on the part of the City of Fairbanks. I would rather have seen something that read:
Now, therefore, be it resolved by the City Council of the City of Fairbanks, Alaska that the City of Fairbanks:
1. says, “Hell, yes! This is a great plan to take back our city from the stinking sprawl-o-rama box stores outside the edge of town. It will make the City of Fairbanks a great place to spend time!”
2. recommends that the Assembly amend the land use plan to incorporate every last point in Vision Fairbanks, if they know what’s good for them.
Perhaps that would have been too much to ask.
Councilman Lloyd Hilling made an interesting comment about the big-box stores: he considers them “wonderful” and “not a blight”. I believe he said, “If you want to call it sprawl, it’s beautiful sprawl.”
Come again, Mr. Hilling? Fanchorage is beautiful? A cluster of architecturally bland stores, surrounded by an ocean of asphalt, at the intersection of two expressways — this is beautiful? One wonders, in what aesthetically bereft environment did he grow up? Has he never traveled to a beautiful city or a lively neighborhood?
However, I’m grateful that he still voted for the plan.