City manager says more public and business input needed
Officials in Valdez will slow down beautification efforts according to John Hozey, city manager, after draft prints of potential architectural landscaping and renderings of a proposed town plaza drew criticism two weeks ago - along with the threat of legal action from business owner Pat Day.
Day and his wife Peggy own commercial real estate in Valdez and more specifically the business rental building on the corner of Chenega and Fairbanks that urban planners suggested should be blocked off to motorized traffic to create a town plaza.
“What we’re recommending is we put the consultants on hold for now,” Hozey told the Valdez City Council Monday night.
“There does seem to be some consternation out there,” Hozey said.
The planners, John Rowe and Pat Coleman from Design Alaska, Engineers and Architects (DAEA), presented the first drawings of beautification concepts during the regular council meeting July 2.
The conceptual plans, which were vetted by the Mayors Beautification Task Force over the course of several months, were designed to capitalize on the town’s voluminous snowfall, incorporate natural rock into signage around town and create attractions such as a welcoming gateway into town. It was the town plaza concept that drew the most ire.
“We need to do a lot of work there,” council member Mike Wells said during the city manager’s report to council. And not just with the public at large.
Wells said the business community – especially the Days and other business owners in the area – must be consulted and incorporated into the beautification plans and process.
Hozey suggested the task force undergo a second round of recruitment with a special eye towards the business community, and look at holding additional open house events to solicit public input and suggestions in the beautification process.
At the time of the presentation, the conceptual plans did garner vocal support from public testimony, Mayor Dave Cobb and councilwoman Karen Ables.
Council member Joe Prax criticized the plans, questioned the worth of beautification and chastised the city for spending tax dollars - $96,000 – on the draft.
Other council members expressed support for efforts to improve the aesthetics of Valdez, but also questioned the overall draft plan as it was presented and acknowledged a need for more input from the public and business community.
The draft concept contains numerous components up for consideration.
A conspicuous tourist draw in the draft consists of a snow gauge made out of a large piece of pipe – an allusion to the trans-Alaska pipeline - that would be used to show people the annual snow fall by year. It is suggested that directional signage made out of large, local slate and rocks be used as directional signage to help visitors find their way around town. A welcome archway across Egan Ave. is also included, along with a smaller archway for a pedestrians. Support for some or all of these projects was noted at the early July meeting.
A revamp of Egan Street also drew much of the fire, with many complaining the design will hamper snow removal, obscure businesses and slow traffic in the town’s main thoroughfare.
The Egan Street redesign includes narrowing the road to allow room for trees and possible urban art that would line the street between business and the actual road.
The draft plan – including conceptual drawings - is available online at the city’s website, along with the task force meeting schedule.