On Tuesday, Bethel City Council unanimously approved the building of Blue Sky Subdivision, which would wrap around Larson Subdivision near the airport. At the start of the council meeting, Bethel residents expressed resounding support for the proposed neighborhood, saying that Bethel needs more housing.
“I see more growth coming up, more expansion of Bethel,” resident Sonny Venes said.
“I’ve been working at YKHC since 2001, and we have had a housing committee that we started 15 years ago, and we have had a waitlist for housing every single year that I’ve been at YKHC and here at Bethel,” said Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation President and CEO Dan Winkelman.
“We are going to strangle the development of this city and cause young people to have to move out of this city because there is no cheap housing for them to go to,” warned resident Hugh Short.
Council members agreed with them.
“I think it’s very clear Bethel does have a lack of affordable housing and good quality housing,” said council member Mitchell Forbes.
On the other hand, many council members, including Forbes, worried about the cost of delivering water and sewer services to the proposed subdivision.
“We’re having a hard time dealing with the system as we have now,” cautioned Vice Mayor Thor Williams. “Putting more houses on that system without water and sewer pipes is just burdening our system to the point of extremes.”
The central question is: will water and sewer costs increase for other Bethel residents to subsidize the costs for the subdivision?
Council member Leif Albertson raised the issue of fairness, citing another subdivision located further from the city’s water plants. He said, “probably Larson is one of those places where we deliver water and it costs us more than we get back.”
The water trucking system is already stressed, and so are the roads. Despite these concerns, council members felt that the discussion regarding the development had dragged on long enough. The landowner, Sen. Lyman Hoffman, first submitted paperwork for Blue Sky Subdivision more than a decade ago.
“Fourteen long years,” said council member Perry Barr. “That’s a long time to wait to open up a new subdivision that is sorely needed by this fast growing community.”
City council approved construction of Blue Sky Subdivision five-to-zero. If Blue Sky developers agree to the terms set by the council, they can begin construction on the new 22-acre subdivision.