Residents' Input In Newtown
Development Plan Too Hot For Some
However, Hope Shown for Opening
By Marie L. Monyak
January 20, 2006
Ketchikan, Alaska - Invited guests wouldn't typically expect
to be treated in an ornery or inhospitable manner, however two
guests speaking before the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce
Wednesday faced a scorching verbal crossfire from a chamber member
interrupting their presentation.
Bobbie McCreary, speaking before
the Chamber regarding potential development plans for Newtown
if the proposed IV Berth Dock is built, was at first mistakenly
introduced as being with the Newtown Historical Neighborhood
Association - a group that she and Dave Rubin are currently working
to help organize to help give Newtown property owners input into
how the area is developed.
David Rubin and Bobbie
Photograph by Marie L. Monyak ©2006
McCreary clarified the introduction by informing the audience,
"I'm a resident of Newtown and I have concerns about upland
development and parking. I am speaking today as an individual,
not on behalf of the association which is still under formation."
At this point McCreary passed out a lengthy list of concerns
that were voiced at a neighborhood meeting which took place on
Tuesday, January 17th. The majority of the comments listed were
in regards to maintaining the history of Newtown.
McCreary stressed her concern that the proposed changes to the
Newtown area may get out of control and she didn't want to miss
the opportunity, as a resident, to have some input in the decision
Because of the negativity towards expansion, McCreary
said, "I think it should be renamed extension."
She also pushed for an open source of information so people
who live here can make informed decisions.
Another important concern for McCreary is what would happen to
Newtown after the much talked about changes and improvements.
"Sure, we have cleaned up the area, but without a long term
plan in place to keep it that way, we will have buildings with
new paint but not enough economy to keep them up long term."
Dave Rubin, another resident that is assisting McCreary in the
formation of the new Newtown neighborhood association, came to
the podium to give his views. "I have lived in Ketchikan
for 23 years on Pittinger Street. I rent space and work in the
Waterfront Storage building, I love that building and I want
to save it." Rubin said.
"I want to save the old buildings and maintain the historical
setting and character of Ketchikan." Rubin added, "My
whole purpose and hope is that we can arrive at a commonality
between the residents and business owners and realize that we
can do that [preserve the history] together."
Rob Holston posed a question asking if Rubin was saying that
there can only be one jewelry store every six buildings. In reply,
Rubin said, "I'm only interested in the look, they can have
any business they want inside, that's laisser faire, it's the
outside, the historic overlay."
McCreary made her position known and cleared up some misunderstanding
when she stated, "I'm not here about voting against berths.
There was something I objected to and that was the four page
spread [in the newspaper] that our money was spent on to get
us to vote on the last ballot. I thought that was inappropriate."
McCreary continued, "I think that unless we can do something
to put a historical focus on Newtown, like Creek Street did,
we can end up with anything here and I think that would be a
Rubin offered, "There was an overwhelming vote no. Why was
that? This is an attempt to engage the people that voted no and
say, look what you can have, look what you can be a part of and
have them feel invested in it so they'll vote yes. "I'm
saying the process should be to involve the people that live
in that area. They already voted no once, how are you going to
get them to vote yes?"
A woman in the audience asked Rubin who was involved as far as
borough planning and other community entities. Rubin replied,
"Initially the borough planners were very excited about
working with us but they got an official directive from their
boss who told them not to attend our meetings and not to be involved
with any kind of planning with regards to Newtown."
When asked what the group's plans are for the information they
have gathered, Rubin responded, "We can go to the City and
the Borough and say, hey look, you work for us, of the people,
by the people, for the people. They can't impose anything on
us unless we vote for it. We can engage the Borough planners
and say here's what we want. We can design exactly what is going
to be there." McCreary added, "This is a long term
Chamber member and past Chamber president J.C. Conley, interrupting
McCreary, said, "You keep referring to historical facts
and you've drawn a conclusion that only exists in your mind.
That is, that what happened downtown is a direct result of tourism.
That is so factually incorrect that it tells me you just rewrite
history. The greatest effect on downtown was the closure of the
timber industry and the opening of WalMart. Those are measurable
statistics, so I would encourage you, if you are going to speak
to historical situations, that you really factually correct yourself.
If it hadn't been for tourism, downtown would be an economic
Conley continued in a confrontational manner, taking over the
floor, "We're going West, commerce goes West, you have a
shopping mall that is not full, you have WalMart out there, you
have an anticipated opening of Fred Meyers. If you don't think
that's going to suck more economic opportunity out of this part
of your town, then you're sorely mistaken."
"You cannot legislate commerce." Conley proceeded,
"You can't sit here and buffalo this room into believing
that you, we, can establish standards. You can't make anyone,
number one, invest a dime of capital, because, it's not your
money. This isn't Communism, this is America, this is America!
You can't do that. You scare the hell out of me!"
Conley was persistent in his crossfire as he said, "We see
people like you come to town before, you probably got hooked
up with some non-profit job in town, probably our [expletive]
taxes are paying your way so you can sit here and destroy our
town! If you want to save a town, go back where you came from,
because it obviously wasn't good enough because you left."
"The cruise industry has stabilized the tax base on this
town, it has done wonderful things. The number of passengers
coming to this town are totally driven by the capacity of this
town to dock the ships. Period!" Conley stated.
A puzzled Rubin asked of Conley, "What do you think we're
Conley's response was, "Everybody here has heard what you
said. You're here because the guy that owns Waterfront Storage
wants to sell it and you're going to make sure he doesn't."
Addressing McCreary, Conley said, "And you, you're here
because you want that house you bought on Hopkins Alley to be
worth a lot more money someday."
Someone in the audience mumbled a comment that McCreary was against
tourism to which she replied, "I absolutely support tourism
so you must not give me that label."
Chamber member Kim Kirby spoke up, putting a stop to the diatribe
when she stated, "I dislike anything that is going to make
a division of local people against each other. I think there
are people in here that feel very threatened, we're all business
people and unless we get people coming off the ships in great
numbers, it's not going to make our business work."
"Katie and I were talking yesterday and saying, why did
people vote no," said Kirby. "That's really important
to us because what we need is a yes vote."
Addressing McCreary, Kirby
said, "I appreciate your input. I came here thinking you
were against it [the dock expansion]. I think there's been some
bad publicity. I want to clarify that we are all on the same
page. That you aren't against the dock expansion and you aren't
against expansion of business and jobs in this town."
Kirby's next comment was one that would further communication,
"We are very excited to hear the input of the people that
you get your comments from, because we can allay their fears
and get them on board."
The beleaguered McCreary, ended with, "Thank you all for
opening the dialog, and let's continue."
Next week's Chamber lunch will be held at noon, January 25th
at the VFW on North Tongass. The invited guest speaker will be
Ketchikan School Board member Mike Harpold, who will explain
the new truancy ordinance.
According to information provided
by Bobbie McCreary, a Zoning for the Newtown Area Commercial
& Residential meeting is scheduled for January 24, 2006,
from 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm, at 640 Park Avenue (across from the American
Legion). Zoning suggestions, as proposed by some Newtown commercial
property owners, and discussion of the process of developing
a historical district are on the agenda. Experts will be available
to respond to questions from the community on issues relating
to development and preservation of the historic Newtown area
northwest of the tunnel. This open meeting is presented by commercial
and residential property owners of the Newtown neighborhood.
The meeting is open to everyone in Ketchikan.
Marie L. Monyak is
a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Marie at email@example.com
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