WASILLA — The Wasilla City Council discussed both the flora and fauna in the Wasilla city limits.
Councilman Stu Graham has a vendetta against invasive weeds, wants the city to maintain their industrial landscape and also had an amendment on the highly anticipated urban farming ordinance.
Ordinance 19-16 that was before the council on Monday for public hearing would add definitions for a domestic animal, farm animal, and approve and revise criteria for animals and poultry. Mayor Bert Cottle said that the code around farm animals within the city had not been rewritten in years, and was overdue for a revision. Cottle said that beekeepers were never anything that had been dealt with in city code until ordinance 19-16. Graham proposed an amendment that would add the words “per animal” after each of the uses of the word “pounds” within the ordinance. Graham’s amendment passed unanimously.
“All we’re trying to do is make it very specific what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about a group of animals, we’re talking about individual animals that we have here to make it perfectly clear to whomever will be essentially an urban farmer in the city of Wasilla,” Graham said.
Cottle said that the public participation seen at the planning commission meetings during their drafting of the ordinance is something he’d like to see more of. The planning commission put six months of work into the ordinance.
“I felt kind of envious they actually had people showing up to their meetings and testifying with vigor and passion about cows and chickens,” Graham said.
The ordinance itself passed unanimously, and the ordinance will appear on the agenda for the final time at the council’s Aug. 26 meeting. The long-awaited short term rentals ordinance will also be before the council at that meeting. While both Graham’s amendment and the ordinance itself passed unanimously, it did not come without doubters.
“This feels like an encroachment of regulation that keeps on building that’s happening here. One of the joys and one of the draws to Alaska is the freedoms provided to us and we keep digging in these code books and we keep putting in these little snippets of you’re going to need approval,” Councilman Tim Burney said. “It feels like a slow creep of government into the privacy of our homeowners within the city limits.”
With the animals taken care of, Graham had two specific requests concerning vegetation. Graham noted that the mowing schedule within city limits had been changed. With the intense heat during the early summer, invasive weeds growing along the roadways have already begun to sprout and spread seeds, and some of the funds for mowing will be repurposed into next summer.
“I highly encourage everybody to take a look at their properties and take a look at their businesses and if you’ve got a chance to go out there and spend 20 minutes pulling those things, that’s 20 minutes well spent because those invasive weeds will take over your property and it certainly doesn’t make us look great as a city,” Graham said.
Cottle noted that as soon as he can get representation from the state, the federal government, and fish and game all in one room, he will call a meeting to address invasive weeds on Wasilla’s lakes and make an attempt to address those problems as well. Graham noted that some of the city’s industrial properties have not been maintained to the level that city code mandates they should.
“Do you think it would be appropriate or do you think it would be kind of show good faith on the part of the city if we were to go back to our properties one at a time and bring them up to what the current code is,” asked Graham of city planner Tina Crawford.
Crawford detailed that the city’s properties that had been mentioned were grandfathered into compliance, but that the city itself was not exempt from complying to it’s own landscaping codes.
“I would like at some point perhaps for the council to visit the thought of going back and bringing our properties into compliance with ordinances that we have,” said Graham.
Todd Smoldon, Director of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Mat-Su office, gave the council an update as well, thanking them for their help in assisting the legislative session held at Wasilla Middle School.
“The governor in an effort to try to help the legislature get their work done came to an agreement that Juneau was going to be the only place where they could meet all as one group, so that’s why he made that decision but thank you,” said Smoldon. “The governor’s call, he amended it to include a capital budget to try to take advantage of some of those federal dollars. What we’ve seen in the last couple of days is that the legislative leadership has read his call quite liberally to include putting everything back in the budget that he vetoed.”
Wasilla Area Seniors Inc. senior ambassador Tom Stearns updated the council that WASI had surpassed it’s fundraising goal for the miles for meals by nearly $5,000. The goal of $50,000 was surpassed, raising $54,801 for WASI. Stearns sported a new hairdo, one without hair, to match Burney. Smoldon, who wears his hair in a picture perfect mullet, noted that Stearns’ hairdo choice may not catch on with everyone. The end of the filing period for candidates for the Wasila city council is Friday at 5:00 p.m. The full list of candidates will be announced on Friday evening.