WEEKEND HANGOUT – Gina Lusher, foreground right, and other Sitka Cirque aerialists rehearse Thursday night for this weekend’s show, Cirque Noir, at the 207 Smith Street studio. The show includes cage dancers, live music and champagne. Kids from first grade through high school will have a separate fundraiser showcase event Saturday afternoon from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Tickets for both shows are available online at sitkacirque.com. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Planning Commission OKs Private Sewer Line


Sentinel Staff Writer

The Planning Commission Wednesday revisited — and discussed again at length — a variance allowing 11 lots to be served by a private utility easement.

In a 3-2 vote approving the variance, the commission gave Todd Fleming of Sound Development the go-ahead to develop lots within a subdivision of 300 Kramer Avenue in a way that would include a hookup to a private sewer line.

Commissioners Chris Spivey, Darrell Windsor, and Stacy Mudry voted in favor of granting the variance. Katie Riley and Wendy Alderson voted against.

The gravity sewer line will be privately owned and shared among the owners of 11 lots. Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, the same private sewer line had received approval to serve eight lots. 

A private utility easement allows a sewer line on private land to serve up to four lots. A variance is required to increase the number of lots served with the easement.

The variance request first appeared on a Planning Commission agenda in August, but was postponed after Fleming presented a letter to the commission that Planning Director Amy Ainslie had not seen prior to the meeting. She said her inability to look over the letter in advance was grounds for postponement until the Sept. 21 regular meeting.

The city Planning Department in August recommended denying the variance, and stated their opposition again Wednesday. Ainslie, along with Public Works Director Michael Harmon, said Wednesday that the reason for staff concern rests mostly with the precedent approval would set.

They said a high number of lots served by a private sewer line can lead to problems with the hookup of the line to the main. In extreme cases, raw sewage can escape, leading to neighbors having to be evacuated.

Harmon said that this is rare, but that the larger issue is that with additional property owners involved, it becomes more difficult to get everyone to work together to solve problems that arise.

Harmon and Ainslie said the integrity of the specific sewer line involved was not in question, but that the precedent set by approval could lead to other developers and property owners receiving variances for sewer projects much more susceptible to failure.

Harmon told the commission that the consequences of passing such a variance are unknown, and that 11 lots being served by a private sewer easement in a largely unregulated fashion is something he hasn’t seen in his time in public works.

He added that the sort of private utility situation presented Wednesday is usually found within homeowners’ associations and other such structures.

Harmon said he believes it makes more sense for individual property owners to invest in their own sewer pump.

“Each property owner controls their own destiny to take care of that pump,” he said.

But Fleming said it would be more convenient for buyers if he could develop the properties with access to a sewer line.

In association with the platting variance for a private utility easement to serve 11 lots, a preliminary plat for a minor subdivision also was issued to Fleming.

After a short discussion the panel approved the preliminary plat by a unanimous vote. It will result in four lots at 300 Kramer Avenue in the R-1 single family and duplex residential district. 

Fleming said he has plans for a major subdivision of one of the resulting four lots, which will come before the Planning Commission at a later date.

In other business, the commission unanimously passed a variance reducing the side setback from 9 feet to 2.5 feet at 207 Seward Street.

Applicant Michelle Mahoney said the variance will allow property owners to construct a shed for the storage of bikes and strollers.

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At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






December 2003

The Sawmill Cove Industrial Park board of directors endorsed a final contract tuesday for the city to sell a minimum of 40 million gallons of reservoir water per year to an export company based in New York City. ... under the contract Quest would have the right to purchase up to 1 billion gallons of water per year at 1 cent per gallon



December 1973

 The City and Borough of Sitka conducted a community public opinion poll evaluating municipal services and facilities. ... The overall results gave this priority order: 1. roads and highways; 2. water and sewer; 3. downtown parking; 4. garbage collection and disposal; 5. hospital and medical facilities; 6. planning and zoning; 7. boat harbors.


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