Unpopular gravel ordinance dead on arrival after borough mayor veto

The Mat-Su Borough Assembly passed the ordinance in a 4-3 vote
The Mat-Su Borough Assembly passed the ordinance in a 4-3 vote
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 5:59 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - A hotly contested gravel ordinance that has been kicked around the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly for months is officially off the table. At Tuesday’s regular Assembly meeting, audience participation took up a large chunk of time and pushed the vote on OR 23-033 toward the tail end of the meeting.

After a number of rounds of amendments, the Assembly voted to pass the measure that would increase the amount of allowable earth material extraction without a permit from 2,000 cubic yards to 10,000. Assembly members Mokie Tew, Ron Bernier, Rob Yundt, and Dmitri Fonov all voted in favor of its passage, while members Stephanie Nowers, Dee McKee, and Tim Hale strongly opposed the measure.

Moments after the vote, however, meeting attendees burst out in applause after borough Mayor Edna DeVries vetoed the ordinance, calling it “bad public policy.” DeVries said she had an inclination that she would use her veto powers for the first time since taking office earlier that morning but hadn’t made up her mind until the ordinance actually passed.

“I still just felt like this is not going to be good for the Mat-Su Borough,” DeVries said. “As both mayor of Palmer and now as mayor of the Mat-Su Borough, my heart really is to form communities, and I could just see that it was — in my opinion — that it was bad public policy and just was tearing our community apart.”

A vote to override the veto failed, 5-2, with Assembly members Tew and Fonov voting in favor. Member Bernier, who supported the ordinance, said he respected the mayor’s decision but feels the ordinance’s purpose is misunderstood by the public.

“It wasn’t about gravel pits, it was literally trying to level lots and make more usable lots for builders, and bottom line, for developers to come in [and] build homes, which increases the tax base for our borough,” Bernier said.

Borough code already allows residents to extract earth materials up to “2,000 cubic yards or less annually on any one parcel” without an administrative or conditional use permit.

With the gravel ordinance now dead on arrival following the mayoral veto, it is unclear if Tew intends to bring another version of it back before the Assembly in the future.