A snowmachine tour business asked the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly last night to rezone a chunk of land to benefit the business. Don Duncan requested the rezone of his property on Farmers Loop Road so he could leave snowmachines there and run them out to the trails of Creamer’s Field. But too many questions came up and the Assembly remanded the request back to the Planning Commission.
Duncan’s property is zoned Rural Residential, a designation that does not allow businesses, or trail facilities. Currently, he and his workers spend time trucking snowmachines every day from another site, on Echo Acres Drive, to the parcel that connects with Creamer’s Field refuge. He would like to build restrooms and a warm-up cabin on the parcel.
Neighbor Matthew Banning doesn’t want any expansion of the current business.
“According to Mr. Duncan’s testimony and business plan, he has 42 snowmachines. If this happens, 42 machines going eight hours a day past my cabins would be 672 trips. Even at half that, it would be 350 trips.”
The property Duncan wants to rezone is 3.8 acres. To bolster his application, he added the 416 acres of the Creamer’s refuge that is designated Rural Residential. It is primarily habitat conservation and is already used for outdoor recreation by mushers, skiiers, dog walkers and ski-jorers. Duncan says it is natural to assume that part of the refuge should also have it’s zoning changed to the Outdoor Recreation designation.
The borough’s Director of Planning, Christine Nelson, told the Assembly what that would allow.
“Uses related to OR are very different than what the RR allows; open space, playgrounds, play fields, campgrounds, golf courses, ski facilities, outdoor ice rinks, nature centers, shooting ranges, boat docks and launches. So, significant differences between what a Rural Residential zone would allow and what a proposed OR zoning would allow.”
Most of the Wildlife Refuge is zoned Rural Agricultural, a designation that made sense at one time, but not since the dairy and hay fields have become a refuge. The State Department of Fish and Game is OK with someone else asking to change the zoning to OR, but is not going to take the resources to pursue it with the borough, because it won’t make any difference how the refuge is managed.
The Assembly had questions about the buffer zone around the refuge, and how new buildings on Duncan’s property might affect the neighbors. They asked the Planning Commission to review the rezone request again.