ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — City officials in Anchorage are considering a change to its land use code that would expand where homeless shelters could be built in the city.
The ordinance would be paired with another proposal to better regulate homeless shelters by adding a licensing requirement, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The proposal would change the land use code to allow new shelters to be built in areas zoned as business districts following the approval of conditional use permits, city officials said. The city Planning and Zoning Commission could add “any number of requirements” to conditional use permits, such as requiring a certain fence height on property near residential neighborhoods.
Currently, homeless shelters can only be built on areas zoned as public lands or institutions, both of which are already highly developed. Assembly Vice Chair John Weddleton said it is “practically impossible” to find new locations without a zoning change.
Anchorage Assembly member Chris Constant said he could not supported the zoning change without the companion ordinance, which would require shelters to have a “good neighbor policy” detailing plans for community communication and minimizing impacts, such as policing of trash and loitering.
“That’s just simply because I’ve been down this road, and the concerns of the public — who have been loud and very assertive — are fair concerns,” he said.
A similar ordinance, without the licensing requirement, was banned last year after several residents argued the new shelters would lead to an increase in crime, loitering and decreases in property value in their neighborhoods.
Weddleton said the current proposed land-use change is already growing opposition among city residents.
The Assembly is scheduled to hear from residents and collect input this week before considering the ordinances on June 8. As written, the ordinance would require shelters to be licensed by Jan. 1, 2023.