Plan to block Fairbanks St meets with some resistance
The first conceptual drawings of a beautification plan backed by city administration made its debut at the Valdez City Council meeting a week ago Monday, drawing praise from members of the Mayor’s beautification task force, and ire from council member Joe Prax and two members of the community that say a portion of the plan will have negative impacts on their businesses.
The plans, which are strictly suggestions at this point, drew the biggest criticism for its town square concept. The suggested location for the area would permanently close a portion of Fairbanks and Chenega Streets to vehicular traffic and make room for a town square for public gatherings, a large public fire pit and other non-motorized uses.
Pat and Peggy Day, owners of the blue building on the corner of Fairbanks and Chenega Streets, appeared before the council to protest the concept. Pat Day complained the plan was created at great expense but with little public input, and no input from businesses adjoining the proposed town square.
David and Sharon Daniels, owners of Tropical Sunsations, the tanning salon across the street, submitted a letter of protest.
“As a tax payer we think the plans for a park or plaza in the downtown area is a waste of our money in times of declining oil revenues,” the letter said. “ As one of the property and business owners most affected by these plans we wish to make the following clear. We are totally against any and all current or future plans for a park or plaza in downtown Valdez.”
Backers of the plan, including Cobb, defended many of the concepts put forth in the proposal, which was created by Design Alaska Engineers and Architects, DAEA , at a cost of $96,000.
“We’ve been working on this for over a year,” Cobb said in an interview Monday.
Cobb noted that the task force has been actively soliciting for new members, ideas from the public and each step taken has been done in the public arena of the city council, the planning and zoning commission and results published on the city’s website.
The design plan also includes public archways, directional signage around town on large chunks of native rock and a large snow gauge made of pipe to show visitors the depth of Valdez snow.
It also suggests planting trees and installing urban art along Meals Avenue, a plan critics say is impractical given the town’s snow depth each year and problems incurred during the snow removal process.
Cobb said he hopes to bring critics into the fold of the task force so a final plan can be implemented around the design but within the limitations of Valdez geography and weather. He also said he hoped critics would not tear down the plan, but work within its framework.
“Our beautification plan doesn’t tell anybody what to do,” Cobb said, and issued an open invitation to more public input on the process. “We’ll bring in some more community members.”
According to the City of Valdez website, the beautification task force will be meeting regularly and interested community members should contact city hall for information on meeting dates and times.
“Where do we go from here?” Cobb said. “We’re not quitting.”