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Development and Design Standards

City Of Anchorage   
Urban | Suburban |
In chapter 21.07 of the Code of Ordinances of Anchorage, Alaska, the city outlines an updated standard of city planning based on the relationship between urban development and the natural environment. The purpose of the chapter is to encourage a prudent use of the local land by promoting a balance between the built environment and the preservation of open space and natural resources. This can be simplified into two primary objectives.

First, their public planning integrates usable open space and natural attractions in order to tailor the city’s infrastructure to its natural and scenic landscape. The legislation points out that the “the municipality contains many natural amenities…all of which contribute to the municipality's character, public health, quality of life, and property values.” Their legislation aims to create infrastructure which will “retain vegetated spaces on site and connect to natural surroundings or scenic views where they may exist off site.” For instance, where large non-residential establishments are in or surrounded by residential districts, a minimum of 35 percent of the lot area shall remain as planted open area, landscaped area, bio-retention area, or natural vegetation area. The city has also made requirements for the number of trees present in residential and non-residential areas, as well as mandatory landscaping in parking lots, freeways, and residential buffer zones. The goal is to promote property values, community character, wildlife habitat, and the natural environment in urban areas of the municipality. Each of these measures has the dual purpose of providing a more aesthetic cityscape and managing for environmental resilience.

The second objective of the legislation is to protect the area’s unique natural resources. Of particular importance to Anchorage is protection of wetland and water bodies, wildlife management corridors, and steep slope development. In addition to general conservation purposes, this is tailored to Anchorage’s issues with erosion, sedimentation, and flooding. The Anchorage Wetlands Management Plan is a leading resource for these protocols because it designates local Wildlife Corridors as well as “setback” locations. Wildlife Corridors are areas delineated as ecologically valuable and are protected from development. Many of these areas have implemented trail ways and educational sites as a way to both protect and utilize natural resources. “Setback” protocol applies to areas of development which are adjacent to valuable ecological areas; these developments must be “setback” a certain distance from the ecological area, and the buffer zone must be maintained in accordance with wildlife needs. Direct communication between city planners and environmental agencies are encouraged in the planning process.