Wednesday, November 2, 2011

DNR's Susitna Area Plan Challenged in Lawsuit

I'm representing the citizen's group in this litigation that seeks to hold the state agency accountable for failing to abide by Alaska statutes that require compliance with borough land use plans "to the maximum extent consistent with state interests."

BY ANDREW WELLNER
Frontiersman - Published on Saturday, October 22, 2011 9:33 PM AKDT

MAT-SU — An activist group in the Susitna Valley has filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that its plan for what to do with state land in the area is not in keeping with local plans.

“Basically, what we’re suing over is the fact that they did not comply with state statutes to take a hard look at the comprehensive plans,” said Becky Long with Alaska Survival. “They mandated that the state listen to regional land use plans. We did the regional land use plan and they didn’t listen to us.”

Long says that regional plans in the Talkeetna, Chase and Susitna Community Council areas are more or less in agreement that they want to maintain a certain rural, sometimes roadless, lifestyle.

She says the state’s plan conflicts with that when it starts talking about “land disposals” — selling state land to private developers. Long said the Susitna Matanuska Area Plan that came out of the state’s Department of Natural Resources designates a large chunk of state lands in the area be sold for use as residential settlements and, in some cases, agricultural settlements.

She said there are state constitutional rights implications where those uses might interfere with locals’ access to fish, wildlife and water bodies.

“There is a considerable amount of private land from the previous disposals,” Long said. Talkeetna, Chase and Susitna plans all call for maintaining the status quo. “The plans have recommended that there not be any more land disposals.”

She said the Mat-Su Borough and the community councils spent years on these plans.

“To have DNR just cursively dismiss them is just not right,” she said.

She said she finds the idea of agriculture in Chase to be particularly bizarre, what with the lack of transportation.

“People would just go in there and make a mess. There’s considerable wetlands in the agricultural area,” she said.

Long said that she and others protested those designations with the department but the designations stood. The next step is superior court and the lawsuit filed Oct. 7.

The lawsuit alleges that DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan abused his discretion when he didn’t ensure the plan was consistent with local plans “to the maximum extent determined consistent with state interests.”

The lawsuit is in its most initial stages. No hearings have been set. It has been assigned to Superior Court Judge Vanessa White. The state has not filed a response.

Contact Andrew Wellner at andrew.wellner@frontiersman.com or 352-2270.

1 comment:

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