Planning Commission Approves Rules for Construction Camps

Friday, March 21 2014

Unalaska is a step closer to adding rules for construction camps to city code after Thursday’s planning commission meeting.

The commission approved four of five proposed changes to the zoning code, also known as Title 8. Those changes will go have to go before city council for final approval.

One set of changes creates set guidelines for where construction camps can go in town and how they should be set up. Right now, city code doesn’t contain detailed language about camps -- they're dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Under this change, camps would be allowed in two industrial zones: marine-dependent and marine-related. Planning director Erin Reinders says they’d also be allowed as a conditional use in commercial zones.

"[That] would mean that if anybody wanted to have a construction camp in a general commercial area, that they would have to go before the planning commission and then the planning commission would decide whether or not that met all the tests of code," she says. "And I would think that some areas it wouldn’t be appropriate, but some areas it would, and that would just be decided that way."

She says camps would also potentially have to have a uniform appearance. And companies would have to submit a plan for how to remove them when work was done.

Another approved change moves the deadline for variance applications up a week. That means people would have to give the planning commission 22 days to consider any requests. Right now, the deadline is 15 days.

The commission also approved new language for planned unit developments. In her presentation, Reinders wrote that it would gives the city more flexibility in dealing with "creative” designs -- ones that don’t necessarily follow city code.

And the commission approved changes to language about building separation. It means removing the required 30-foot separation between buildings on the same lot, among other things. One resident expressed concern about that. Reinders says the change isn’t designed to be universal.

"When you ask for the building permit, you would just need to demonstrate that however you’re going to use that property, that it works," she says. "The fire department also reviews all those building permit plans, so if there’s a huge safety issue, they’re going to flag it and then kind of work it out with you that way."

Commission chair Chris Bobbitt emphasized that the change doesn’t impact the required separation between buildings on different lots.

The commission decided to wait until their next meeting to approve changes to the definitions of subdivisions and lease lots.

The rest of the changes will be on city council’s agenda for a public hearing and eventual approval sometime in the near future. Planning staff say they don’t know yet when that will be.

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