KTNA Studio – Dave Totten, artist

Photo by Deb Wessler

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KTNA Studio

KTNA On Air Studio, Jan 2013

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by James Trump

Winter Black-capped Chickadee

winter chickadee

Photo by Robin Song

Fish Lake morning

Fish Lake morning

photo: Robin Song

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Mat-Su Borough Assembly Closes Marijuana Permit Loophole, Grandfathers Talkeetna Retail Shop

On Tuesday, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly approved the ordinance to close a regulatory loophole for commercial marijuana facilities located inside special land use districts, or SPUDs. A late amendment to the ordinance could mean a marijuana retail store in Talkeetna could be cleared to open sooner than anticipated.

Due to an oversight when crafting the regulations for conditional use permits for marijuana, areas inside SPUDs were unintentionally exempted from borough permit requirements, meaning only a state license would be required for those businesses to open their doors.

The loophole affected two businesses in the Talkeetna area. Talkeetna Herb Company had already completed the state licensing process before the error in borough code was discovered, and thus was grandfathered in to not needing a permit from the borough. The High Expedition, a marijuana retail facility planned for Main Street, was also subject to the loophole.

A few Talkeetna residents who have become vocal opponents of The High Expedition’s location spoke at the meeting, urging the assembly to take steps that would prevent the store from opening. One of the requests was for the borough to reinstate a buffer around parks for commercial marijuana facilities. The High Expedition lies across the street from the campground at the end of Main Street.

Assembly Member Randall Kowalke, whose district includes Talkeetna, introduced an amendment to the ordinance that would effectively grandfather The High Expedition into the old version of marijuana regulations, meaning a borough permit is not required. Kowalke cited errors the borough made that prevented the owners of the retail facility from applying for their borough permit up to this point and letters from the Talkeetna Community Council asking that the application process for the business not be delayed.

The amendment and the ordinance as a whole passed without objection.

Su Valley Voice for January 11th, 2017: Will Peterson and Jeff King

Jeff King (Left) and Will Peterson (Right)

Jeff King (Left) and Will Peterson (Right)

 

This week on Su Valley Voice, guest host Will Peterson spoke with four-time Iditarod winner Jeff King about the Iditarod, mushing in general, and King’s success in the state sport.

Susitna Writers Voice – The Friendliest Nuthatches, by Robin Song

After fetching male NH out of Jetta.jpg Sweetie & Robin.jpg

It began in October, when I put suet out for the many birds populating the forest around the cabin. Some were migratory species, some were birds which would be spending the winter. I noticed a family of Red-Breasted Nuthatches-two parents and five offspring. They were very active and noisy, beeping and chattering, as only Nuthatches can do.

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Susitna Writer’s Voice – StarDate Susitna, by Kathleen Flemming 1-08-2017

http://www.mreclipse.com/SEphoto/TSE1991/image/TSE91-4cmp1w.JPGIn this episode of Susitna Writer’s Voice, Kathleen Fleming looks ahead to astronomical events in the coming week and anticipated highlights of  new year.

Talkeetna Council Recommends Changes for Temporary Structure Rules on Main Street

With the continued growth of tourism in the Upper Valley, new businesses come to Talkeetna each year. Real estate on Main Street is limited, however, so many end up using trailers or other temporary structures to set up shop for the summer. Now, the Talkeetna Community Council board of directors is asking the Mat-Su Borough to clarify the rules regarding those temporary structures on Main Street.

 

Last spring, the Talkeetna Community Council, Incorporated board of directors created a committee to review portions of the regulations in the Main Street special land use district, or SPUD. On Monday, the board approved a recommendation from the committee to clarify rules regarding temporary structures.

 

Currently, the Main Street SPUD defines a structure as temporary if it does not have a footing or foundation, and is used for thirty days or less. After thirty days, it has to be removed. During that time, temporary structures are not subject to all of the rules as permanent structures, including setbacks. The regulations do not currently specify whether the thirty-day period can be restarted after moving a structure. Talkeetna council board member Paul Button says the current rule leaves room for interpretation.

 

“What does that mean? Some people would construe that to mean they could drive around the block and come right back, and the clock starts again. The committee does not believe that was the intent of the SPUD.”

 

Talkeetna resident Geri McCann took part in the SPUD committee, and believes some businesses are taking advantage of the current wording.

 

“It just seems like when they read it, the thirty days, they’ve just been taking advantage and pushing it beyond its reach—beyond what was intended. If I was going to put up a temporary structure and I see thirty days, that’s thirty days.”

 

Troy Smiley, co-owner of the Dancing Leaf Gallery, hosts the popular Spinach Bread trailer on his property in the summer, and says that at least one Mat-Su Borough code compliance officer told him that the regulation was for thirty days at a time.

 

“When borough code compliance came around and we had the discussion about the thirty day thing, it was the borough’s interpretation that, ‘Move every thirty days for a legitimate business reason, and then come back,’” would be compliant behavior.

 

In order to clarify the rules for temporary structures, the Main Street SPUD committee recommended changing the language to make it clear that the thirty-day limit applies for an entire calendar year. That would make it impossible for a structure to stay up all summer and still count as temporary.
One source of concern regarding long-term temporary structures is that they don’t follow the same rules for setbacks and separation as other buildings on Main Street, which can lead to crowding. Paul Button says there are potential consequences to that crowding beyond aesthetics.

 

“So you get a temporary structure closer than code would allow to adjoining structures. When you have a fire in one building, that’s bad enough. All of a sudden, you have a fire in four buildings…It happened Downtown in 2013, I think, [with] three buildings, two of which were almost burned to the ground. So, this is not an academic exercise.”

 

Paul Button says some businesses may not have to change what they are currently doing to be in compliance, so long as they follow the setback and easement rules required of permanent structures.

 

“It doesn’t even affect temporary structures like we think of, like trailers. Just don’t call it a temporary structure, keep it out of the easement, [and] we don’t care what you do with it.”

 

Some business owners want more notice given for those who may be making plans for this summer under the current rules. Jenny Krepel of Talkeetna Gifts and Collectibles wants more notice given before a change in how some people may have to do business.

 

“I think businesses need a little bit more heads-up…because it is going to affect how they are going to do their business, if they’re going to have to move, if they’re going to have to build something else. I would like a little bit more notice.”

 

A motion was made to make the requested changes effective next year so that there would not be the potential for disruption this summer, but the motion failed after not receiving a second.

 

Despite that, the process to change the SPUD will take time. The Talkeetna Community Council, Inc. board of directors does not have direct control over the document. Since SPUDs are part of Mat-Su Borough code, the borough will have final say over what, if any, changes occur and in what timeframe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Forrest Leo, Author of “The Gentleman”

Photo courtesy of Forrest Leo

Photo courtesy of Forrest Leo

The Upper Valley has a high number of artists per-capita. This summer, Forrest Leo, who grew up in Talkeetna and Trapper Creek, published his first novel, titled The Gentleman. While visiting family for the holidays, Forrest has appeared at book signings and other events in Alaska. On Thursday, he came to the KTNA studio and spoke with News Producer Phillip Manning about his book and how his upbringing in the Susitna Valley influenced him.

Copies of The Gentleman are available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Fireside Books in Palmer.

Commercial Marijuana on Main Street Dominates Talkeetna Council Meeting Discussion

Correction:  The original version of this story stated that a change was requested by the TCCI board to six Talkeetna-area special use districts to include language for commercial marijuana.  In fact, it applies to five SPUDs, since the Christiansen Lake SPUD already prohibits commercial development.

On Monday, the first meeting of 2017 for the Talkeetna Community Council, Inc. board of directors saw an unusually high turnout. Many of those present were there to listen or speak about the subject of commercial marijuana in Downtown Talkeetna. KTNA’s Phillip Manning was there, and has this story.

 

Due to an error in borough code, The High Expedition, a marijuana retail facility planned for the cabin that was once a chocolate shop near the end of Main Street, is in a sort of limbo. As of now, the owners would only need a state license to open, since the building lies within a special land use district, or SPUD, and current code exempts SPUDs from the permit process. The borough has a fix to the relevant portion of code in the works, however, which is expected to pass at the next Mat-Su Borough Assembly Meeting on January 10th.

The High Expedition’s Co-owner, Joe McAneney, says he expects the business’ state license process to be complete early next month. Until borough code is fixed, he is not allowed to apply for the borough’s conditional use permit, since technically one is not required until and unless the assembly makes the expected code change.

The potential for a marijuana retail store on Main Street has raised controversy in the last few weeks. More than forty people attended the Talkeetna Community Council’s January meeting. Of those present, just under half spoke regarding the potential legal sale of marijuana on Main Street.

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Tips for Healthy Living – December 30, 2016

A live 15-minute KKehoeTipsbySKehoeIMG_0958discussion about health and health news. Host Holly Stinson is joined by in-studio guest Keith Kehoe, a Sunshine Community Health Center provider.  During this segment, Holly & Keith discuss healthy habits to extend the length and quality of life. What you do now impacts your life later.

 

2016 Year in Review

As 2016 draws to a close, we’re reviewing some of the memorable stories of the year.  Listen during the local news or online to these stories:

Trapped in Talkeetna: Alaska’s first live escape room game, February 24, 2016

Owner talks about canna-business in Talkeetna, February 15, 2016

Mushers share their thoughts before 2016 Iditarod, March 6, 2016

Talkeetna Airport tree clearing concerns some neighbors, August 1, 2016

Dinosaur Bones in Denali National Park, October 24, 2016 (this story is only available over the radio – listen Friday, December 30th)