by Jon Cecil, AICP, Anchorage, AK
The 2019 Alaska Chapter of the American Planning Association State Planning Conference was a huge success. The conference was held in Anchorage on January 13-15, 2019 with more than 120 planners, planning commissioners, and other affiliated professionals in attendance. The annual planning commission training and a grant writing workshop were held prior to the start of the conference. This year’s conference theme “Healthy Communities” highlighted the nexus between the planning and public health professions and the many public health challenges that have resulted from planning decisions. Interesting and thought-provoking keynote speakers included: Kurt Christiansen, FAICP, current President of National Board of the APA; Dr. Jay Butler, former Chief Medical Officer and Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services; Chad Berginnins, Chief Financial Manager and Executive Director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers; and, Gil (Guillermo) Penalosa, founder and chair of the internationally-recognized Canadian non-profit organization 8 80 Cities.
The following awards were presented and celebrated:
Comprehensive Plan Award
Sitka 2030 Comprehensive Plan
This award recognized a comprehensive plan completed over the past three years that had broad public participation through innovative and visionary approaches. The Sitka 2030 Comprehensive Plan was developed through a robust and varied community outreach program. City and Borough of Sitka planning staff with support from Juneau-based planning consultant Barbara Sheinberg addressed a variety of challenges including addressing the surprise of internal resistance, identifying 11 land use and future growth challenges and opportunities, finding a balance between a readable but easy-to-use plan and the technical data that supported plan development, effectively utilizing an EPA Smart Growth America grant, and having a strong implementation component. Maegen Bosak, director of Sitka Community Affairs accepted the award on behalf of the Sitka community.
Award for Planning Leadership
Planning Advocate of the Year—Sara Jansen
Sara Jansen currently serves as an officer on the board of directors for the Great Land Trust (GLT), a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of land and waters in Alaska. Sara’s volunteer work with GLT resulted in the acquisition and donation of 295-acres for the Settler’s Bay Coastal Park in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough (MSB). The GLT donated the park land for its development, operations, and maintenance along with a grant for planning and construction. Sara is well known to local planners where her work continues to inspire and also benefit her community.
Award for Planning Team - Municipality of Anchorage Long-Range Planning Division
This award recognized and honored a four-member team of planning professionals from the Municipality of Anchorage’s Long-Range Planning Division, who collectively made outstanding contributions to the planning field in Alaska. Their exemplary teamwork accomplished several significant planning goals, programs, and projects. These accomplishments included development of the 2040 Land Use Plan and Map, a much needed update of its comprehensive plan, Anchorage 2020. The 2040 Plan is now being implemented and several successful efforts were recognized at the awards’ ceremony including: adoption of a new zoning district (R-3A), development of a Reinvestment Focus Area program, and revision of the R-2 zoning districts to address the 2.5 story standard. The planning team included Kristine Bunnell, Jon Cecil, Tom Davis, and Thede Tobish, all senior planners with the MOA.
Award for Emerging Planner
Ben Coleman, Planner II-Transportation, Mat-Su Borough
Ben Coleman joined the Matanuska-Susitna Borough (MSB) Planning Department in May 2017 following his graduation from Cornell University with a master’s degree in regional planning. Ben is credited with creating a Geographic Information System (GIS) story map integrated with the MSB’s 2035 Long-Range Transportation Plan. Ben also researched and developed a position paper on a commuter rail link between the MSB and Anchorage, a proposal for an economic opportunity zone, and participated on the MSB’s $43 million Road Bond. Ben currently serves as the MSB representative for planners in Region Two of the Alaska Chapter of APA, and recently received notification of the AICP Candidate designation.
Award for a Leader -
Planner of the Year
John Czarnezki, Director of Economic Development and Planning for the City of Soldotna, AK
John Czarnezki was recognized by the members of the Alaska Chapter of the American Planning Association as the Planner of the Year for his outstanding career contributions to the planning field in Alaska. John is the Director of Economic Development and Planning for the City of Soldotna, Alaska. Some of his more recent professional successes include: establishing a new food truck regulatory framework, crafting commercial marijuana regulations, and, a new townhouse development zoning and landscaping standards. John’s recognition included his efforts in spearheading the first ever Frozen River Festival (a popular outdoor winter beer festival which has more than 1,000 attendees).
Jon Cecil, AICP is the Senior Transportation Planner for Anchorage, Alaska. He has served the Board of Directors for Western Planning Resources, Inc. and on The Western Planner Editorial Board.
Published March 2019