Holton Hills Development: A Saga of Progress, Community, and Controversy in Girdwood

In the picturesque town of Girdwood, Alaska, a tale of development, community, and controversy is unfolding. The Holton Hills project, a proposed residential development near the popular Alyeska Resort, is at the center of this saga. Originally voted down due to community resistance last year, it has resurfaced, bringing with it a renewed debate over the future of this beloved area.

Anchorage Sells off Girdwood: Workers Require AFFORDABLE Housing!

The Holton Hills development is a 100-dwelling project that seeks to create a mix of homes, condos, and townhouses near the popular Alyeska Resort. The proposed ordinance, if passed, would allow the city to dispose of land it holds in the Heritage Land Bank to a private developer. While the details of the plan can be found in the ordinance itself, it is worth noting that the project had been postponed indefinitely last year due to community resistance and other political considerations.

The Holton Hills development, spearheaded by Connie Yoshimura of CY Investments LLC, is a significant undertaking. It aims to create a mix of housing options, including homes, condos, and townhouses. This development is not just about building structures; it’s about shaping the future of Girdwood, impacting its economy, housing market, and the very essence of the community.

Last year, the project faced indefinite postponement due to strong community resistance. Concerns ranged from environmental impacts to strains on infrastructure and changes to the community’s character. Krystal Hoke, a local realtor and board member of the Girdwood Community Land Trust, emphasizes the community’s need for affordable housing for those supporting the service industry in Girdwood. This points to a broader issue – the need for developments that not only cater to the affluent but also support the working class.

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Connie Yoshimura, with a long history in real estate and land development in Alaska, brings expertise and a vision for Girdwood’s growth. Her track record includes various successful projects across Southcentral Alaska. The Holton Hills project is a partnership with the Heritage Land Bank, involving a mixed-density plan intended to provide a range of housing options from entry-level to luxury homes. This mix is seen as a way to increase residential density, supporting a vibrant community and a broader range of services within a local setting.

The Heritage Land Bank (HLB) plays a crucial role in this development. In April 2021, HLB issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for developing a portion of their Girdwood holdings, which was awarded to CY Investments. The plan involves a 50/50 profit share with CY Investments covering costs for roads, water, sewer, gas, and electric infrastructure.

Now, with the Holton Hills development back on the agenda, it comes as no surprise that the Anchorage Assembly meeting is bound to be a heated affair. Community bashing, as it is often referred to, becomes a common occurrence when residents passionately express their concerns and objections to a proposed development. While healthy debate is a cornerstone of democracy, it is essential for all parties involved to approach the issue with civility and respect.

For the residents of Girdwood, this renewed push for the Holton Hills development brings mixed emotions. On one hand, the project promises economic growth and increased housing options in an area that is often in high demand due to its proximity to the Alyeska Resort. However, concerns about the potential impact on the environment, infrastructure strain, and the character of the community cannot be ignored.

It is important to recognize that development projects like Holton Hills have far-reaching implications beyond the immediate community. They have the power to shape the landscape of an entire region and impact various industries and sectors. In this case, the tourism and real estate sectors are likely to be significantly affected by the success or failure of the project.

As we navigate through the complexities of this debate, one can’t help but wonder about the future. Will the Anchorage Assembly vote in favor of the Holton Hills development, or will community resistance prevail once again? Only time will tell. What is certain, however, is that the decision made will have lasting consequences for Girdwood and beyond.

Impact on Girdwood: The proposal suggests a phased development, initially focusing on 60.1 acres of the 448.9 acres included in the original RFP. This development aims to preserve the natural environment and establish a Firewise community, taking into account the risks of wildfires. Moreover, a homeowners’ association is planned to maintain and increase home values, with strict design criteria to preserve the community’s aesthetics.

 

Historical Context: The name “Holton Hills” honors Howard Holtan, a lifelong Alaskan and former Director of Project Management and Engineering for the Municipality of Anchorage. His legacy in Girdwood, especially his involvement in the Alyeska Mighty Mites program, is commemorated through this project.

The development promises significant economic growth and increased housing options in Girdwood. However, the community’s pushback highlights a deeper concern about preserving the town’s character and providing affordable housing for local workers. The project’s success or failure will have far-reaching implications, particularly for the tourism and real estate sectors.

FAQs: Addressing Key Concerns

  1. What are the main concerns of Girdwood residents about the Holton Hills project?
    • Residents are concerned about environmental impact, infrastructure strain, and maintaining the community’s character. There is also a strong demand for affordable housing for local workers.
  2. How does the development affect tourism and real estate in Girdwood?
    • The project could boost the real estate market and attract tourists. However, if not managed well, it could also strain local resources and alter the town’s appeal.
  3. What can concerned citizens do?
    • Residents can attend public hearings, engage with elected officials, and participate in community discussions to voice their opinions and influence the project’s direction.

The Holton Hills development encapsulates the challenges and complexities of balancing progress with community values. While economic growth and housing development are crucial, listening to and addressing community concerns is equally important. As Proverbs 19:21 states, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” We must navigate these waters with wisdom, ensuring that any development aligns with the long-term vision of the community and its residents. Stay informed, stay engaged, and let your voice be heard in shaping the future of Girdwood.

Have Your Say on the Holton Hills Development at the Anchorage Assembly Meeting!

Your Voice Matters: Make It Heard on January 23

Attention, Girdwood residents and concerned Anchorage citizens! The Holton Hills residential development, a topic of much debate and controversy, is on the agenda for the upcoming Anchorage Assembly meeting. This is your opportunity to influence a decision that could reshape the future of our community.

Assembly Meeting Details:

  • Date: Tuesday, January 23
  • Time: 5 pm
  • Location: Ground floor of the Loussac Library

How to Provide Testimony:

  1. In-Person Participation:
    • Arrive Early: The Assembly meeting starts at 5 pm, but it’s wise to arrive beforehand to ensure a spot to speak.
    • Prepare Your Remarks: You’ll likely have a limited time (usually 3 minutes). Be concise and clear about your position on the Holton Hills development.
  2. Written Testimony:
    • If you can’t attend in person, you can still make your voice heard by submitting written testimony.
  3. Contact Assembly Members Directly:
    • Consider reaching out to Assembly members before the meeting. Find their contact information on the Municipality of Anchorage website.
  4. What to Include in Your Testimony:
    • State Your Position: Clearly state if you are for or against the development.
    • Your Reasons: Whether it’s environmental concerns, infrastructure, the community’s character, or affordable housing, explain why you hold your position.
    • Personal Impact: Share how the development might affect you or your community.
Tips for Effective Testimony

To make your in-person testimony more effective, please be consider the following: 

Sit in the front of the auditorium near the public podium, and when the Chair opens the public hearing on your item on the agenda, approach the podium to speak.  Introduce yourself, spell your last name for the record and include the part of town you live in. Support your testimony with as many facts as possible and try to provide specific information that Assembly Members can use to inform their decisions. Assembly members may ask questions after your testimony. Answer the questions to the best of your ability and don't be afraid to say "I don't know."​ During public hearings, individuals representing Community Councils are allotted five minutes to speak (AMC 2.30.055B​). 

To make your telephonic testimony more effective, please be consider the following: 

The Anchorage Assembly will call you between 5:00 p.m. and 12:00 midnight from the following number: (907) 343-4066. Mute your television or the live stream if you are following along. If not, there is a delay and it will echo and will complicate your testimony. Do not have your phone on speaker. Speaker phones introduce a myriad of extraneous noise into your testimony. Make sure there is limited ambient noise from your location and make sure you are in a location that has good cell service, if you are on a cell. If you have a headset, please use it. Headsets will give a more consistent signal and reduce room noise. 

To make your written testimony more effective, please be consider the following: 

Write the topic of your testimony at the top of the testimony form and state your position ​​on it in the first line. If you are referring to a specific Assembly Resolution (AR), write the number of the resolution in the subject line or at the top of the email. For all testimony, please consider the following: Keep your testimony succinct so that Members can quickly and easily understand the information you wish to share. Provide how the issue will personally impact you and/or any new points you think the Assembly have not considered yet.​

Why This Matters: The Holton Hills development is not just a local construction project; it’s a decision that affects the community’s character, the local environment, and the living standards in Girdwood. Whether you’re in favor of providing more housing options and economic growth or concerned about the potential negative impacts, your opinion is crucial.

Example Public Testimony Against the Holton Hills Development

Honorable Members of the Anchorage Assembly,

My name is [Your Name], a resident of [Girdwood, Anchorage, etc], and today I stand before you to express my strong opposition to the proposed Holton Hills development project. This development, while promising economic growth and housing options, poses significant threats to our community that cannot be overlooked.

Environmental Concerns: First and foremost, the environmental impact of this development is deeply troubling. Girdwood's natural beauty and unique ecosystem are among our most cherished assets. The proposed development threatens to disrupt wildlife habitats, increase pollution, and potentially lead to unmanageable urban sprawl. Moreover, the risks associated with wildfires in our area demand a cautious approach to any new construction, especially of this magnitude.

Strain on Local Infrastructure: Our town's infrastructure, as it currently stands, is not equipped to handle the influx of residents and the additional traffic that 100 new dwellings would bring. This development could overburden our already limited resources, leading to problems with road maintenance, sewage, and other essential services.

Impact on Community Character: Girdwood is known for its close-knit community and small-town charm. The introduction of a large-scale housing project like Holton Hills risks diluting this character, potentially transforming our unique town into just another congested and overdeveloped area.

Affordable Housing Concerns: While the development promises a range of housing options, the reality is that these are likely to be out of reach for many of our local workers. We need affordable housing solutions that cater to the actual needs of Girdwood's residents, particularly those who support our vital service industry.

Transparency and Community Involvement: The process leading to this proposal has raised questions about transparency and community involvement. Many residents feel their concerns and suggestions have not been adequately considered. It's crucial that any development in our town is pursued with the full participation and consent of the community it will affect.

In conclusion, while I understand and appreciate the need for growth and development, it should not come at the expense of our environment, community character, and the well-being of our residents. I urge the Assembly to reconsider the approval of the Holton Hills development and to work towards more sustainable, community-focused solutions.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Make a Difference: This is about more than just housing; it’s about the kind of community we want to live in. Whether you’re a homeowner, a renter, a business owner, or simply someone who loves Girdwood, this is your chance to help shape the future of our town. Stand up, speak out, and let your voice be heard!

Remember, the decisions made by our local government have real, lasting impacts. This is your opportunity to be part of that decision-making process. See you at the Assembly meeting!

As we await the decision of the Anchorage Assembly, let us remember the words of Proverbs 19:21: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Regardless of the outcome, it is our duty as citizens to remain engaged, informed, and respectful of differing viewpoints. Keep an eye on the news for updates on this ongoing story, and remember that your voice matters in shaping the future of your community.

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