By Chris Story
Upon learning of ordinance 2011-12, Anadromous Streams, and its widespread implications on the rights of private property owners, I e-mailed Kenai Peninsula Borough Assemblyman Smith and asked a few questions.
• 1. Why were property owners not informed of the impending ordinance prior to its passage?
• 2. Did you know property owners would not be informed?
• 3. Why would there be no notice required when written notice is required for almost any change that a citizen would make such as a lot split or vacation of a lot line, let alone a major ordinance that massively impacts the rights of private property owners?
Assemblyman Smith’s reply included the phrase, “silly questions.”
He did not address the fundamental question of why property owners were not included in the conversation regarding this ordinance restricting the use of 50 feet of their land, or at a minimum notified in writing that this ordinance was being offered to the Borough Assembly and afford them an opportunity to speak to it.
There I go again being silly.
Allow me to stipulate right up front that I, and every property owner I’ve spoken to, care about salmon and salmon habitat. No one is suggesting that property owners be able to make changes to the eco system in such a way that they destroy or inhibit the health of salmon.
One point that has been made by many property owners along the shore of Caribou Lake is that there is not a salmon run emanating from or returning to Caribou Lake. That is in addition to the fact that virtually all of the land surrounding the lake shore is designated on wetlands mapping as some form of wetlands, bringing it under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers.
This is the kind of discussion that Caribou Lake property owners could have presented to the Assembly, had they been given proper notice of the ordinance in advance of its passage. For Assemblyman Smith to suggest that it was good enough to notify them in writing many months after passage, but prior to implementation is ludicrous.
How would you like to check the mail next week and find out that, while you were sleeping, the Assembly passed an ordinance with massive implications on what you can do on your own property?
For Assemblyman Smith to suggest that my questions regarding the rights and notification of property owners were silly is the height of arrogance. Unfortunately however, this is the trend we are seeing at many levels of government.
To place the burden of proof of a deleterious impact on the value of land on anyone who is looking to defend the rights of private property owners is a way of keeping you quiet.
“Oh, you can’t prove what we are doing is impacting the value of land; so you should keep your mouth shut.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Assemblyman Smith, then Planning Commissioner Smith, brought forward the Bridgecreek Watershed Protection District. This ordinance restricted the use of your property to 4.2 percent. In other words, 95 percent of your land was not to be utilized. My questioning of then Planning Commissioner Smith elicited the response that I wasn’t a very good citizen. Are you picking up on a pattern? I am; and it is one of control of other people’s property and don’t you dare dispute the regulation or you will be painted as not caring about the environment.
Don’t let go of your rights easily. Today they come for the waterfront property, tomorrow they come for yours. Yes, we all want to protect the salmon — as well as due process.
Chris Story is owner/broker of Story Real Estate, Radio Talk Show host and lifelong Alaskan.
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