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We Build Alaska

It’s time to fix the waterbody setback code in the Mat-Su Borough

When Mokie Tew and I ran for the Mat-Su Borough Assembly, we both promised two things:

  1. Fight for a fiscally responsible government.
  2. Defend all residents of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough against an overreaching bureaucracy.

We are proud to say that we both have repeatedly delivered on these promises, but we need your help to do it again. On July 18, we are establishing a working group to fix a nearly 40-year-old issue with our half-written waterbody setback code, and we need those affected to come serve.

I’ve heard the argument that there is nothing wrong with the 75-foot setback currently in place. If it was simply a setback rule, I would agree. However, due to the incomplete nature of the ordinance, it has placed undue financial burden on those who built homes closer than 75 feet to the water’s edge prior to the ordinance being enacted.

Last year I had a concerned constituent reach out to me regarding repairs that he needed to make to his home to preserve the structural integrity. He lives in a home badly in need of repair but cannot fix it due to the incomplete nature of the current setback ordinance, which prescribes no remedy for homeowners to become compliant with the current Matanuska-Susitna Borough code.

Other owners who were “grandfathered” in – who have homes closer to the lake than the 75-foot setback – are finding that they cannot sell their homes unless they find a cash buyer or can owner finance. Homeownership is the single largest store of wealth that most Alaskans have. These upstanding Mat-Su residents who have lived in their homes for decades are finding that it’s nearly impossible to access that, through no fault of their own.

I was not elected to ignore situations like this. I will not stand by idly by and ignore him or the other 672 homeowners that are finding themselves in a similar situation. We, as a community, owe it to these folks to finish the ordinance that was created in the 1980’s and give these homeowners a path forward. I was elected to lead and fix tough problems, and that’s exactly what Mokie and I are working tirelessly to do.

Are you or someone you know one of the many homeowners, who through no fault of your own, can’t get financing on your home because it accidentally violates the 75-foot waterbody setback ordinance? Was your home affected by the 2018 earthquake but cannot be repaired because it violates this setback? Are you required to sell your home for a cash deal only because it violates the rule?

We recognize that most homes (673) in violation were built prior to the adoption of the set back rule in 1987. The remaining homes accidentally violated the rule because of the Borough’s lack of permitting requirements that would have prevented future builds from occurring within the prohibited 75 feet.

What are the solutions? Bulldoze and start new? Hire a moving company to move these homes? What about homes that don’t have 75 feet from a waterbody to build? After nearly 40 years of code violations with no path for homeowners to become compliant, Mokie and I have introduced a much-needed solution, but we need your feedback and approval.

Ordinance 23-049’s top priority is to protect our precious water source while still providing a means for owners to become compliant. If adopted, the ordinance would provide a permit only if: 1) a civil engineer develops plans constructed in accordance with local, state, and federal laws and 2) the owner is solely responsible for maintaining the Borough approved pollution mitigation plan.

Right now, homes out of compliance pose a potential pollution to our water supply because we lack regulations, yet these homeowners have no intention of causing issues. This waterbody permit would provide an incentive to these homeowners to spend the extra money on a mitigation plan and its implementation, which is in the best interests of all residents.

If you are a homeowner affected by this waterbody set back, please contact Mokie, myself, or Mayor Edna Devries to join our taskforce of concerned borough citizens, industry experts, professional engineers, and government officials to create a commonsense reform that will protect our water for generations to come. Call or text my cell phone at any time at 907-232-8340.

Rob Yundt has represented District 4 on the Mat-Su Borough Assembly since 2020. 

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1 year ago

,”The set back was set back because setbacks are a set back from the point where setbacks start” Kamila Harris.

1 year ago

With much due respect, because you are right for pursuing this, you have this totally backwards. I’m a Civil Engineer. The pollution issues addressed by a setback from water-bodies are not the sort of thing you need a civil engineering education to address. You don’t need a survey and a plan-set and a good Auto-Cad drawing. Take it one step further and develop a waiver process that ordinary folk can follow. This sort of setback requirement is treating a PE license as nothing more than a barometer of honesty – and if we are truly being honest, the engineers who… Read more »