Ordinance aimed to increase gravel extraction sans permit postponed indefinitely

The legislation hit a relative dead end after weeks of public input and a number of amendments proposed by other assembly members.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 8:13 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - A piece of legislation surrounding gravel extraction in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough was tabled at Tuesday’s regular Assembly meeting in Palmer. OR 22-131, sponsored by District 5 assembly member Mokie Tew, proposed an amendment to a borough code that would increase the annual amount of earth materials allowed for extraction without a permit from 2,000 to 10,000 cubic yards.

The current borough code states that the “extraction of 2,000 cubic yards or less annually on any one parcel does not require an administrative or conditional use permit.”

The legislation hit a relative dead end after weeks of public input and a number of amendments proposed by other assembly members. The public was largely not supportive of the amendment, citing concerns over residential impacts such as noise pollution, dust and road degradation from the number of truckloads it would take to move that amount of material.

“What [Tew’s] proposing, you can go into any 1-acre lot, any sized lot, in a subdivision right next door to somebody’s house and start doing this without any public input what-so-ever,” said borough resident Bill Haller.

During the regular Assembly meeting on Mar. 7, the borough’s planning director, Alex Strawn, stated in his staff report that the standard dump truck holds 10-12 cubic yards of material and that it would take 1,000 trucks to move 10,000 cubic yards of materials.

Assembly member Stephanie Nowers said the current system that requires a permit for any extraction over 2,000 cubic yards isn’t broken and doesn’t need fixing.

“I’m still struggling to understand the problem with the current process,” Nowers said. “85% of the time the permits are approved. There’s just consideration for the adjoining property owner.”

Strawn also stated during his staff report that of the approximately 20 permit applications that have been processed since the regulation went into effect in 2005, only three have been denied.

Some residents believe the move stems from assembly member Tew’s personal tie to the gravel industry, but he has maintained that is not the case.

“I’ve been involved in gravel for 20 years in the borough, but currently, I’ve been out for a couple of years,” Tew stated during the Mar. 7 meeting. “I do have some property that has pits on it but they haven’t been active for a couple of years, nor do I have plans for them to be active.”

While the proposed change to the borough code is shelved for now, Tew indicated that he intends to bring it back before the Assembly in the near future.