Street names are a hot topic in the Denali Borough right now.

Assigning names to unnamed streets, making sure streets have the correct suffix to meet borough code, and ensuring there are no duplicate street names are all things that need to happen before local residents can get an actual address.

There are 393 existing and proposed street names in the Denali Borough.

“Someone driving through Healy might think there are only about 20 roads here, but there are 393 roads,” said Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker. “That’s a lot.”

Naming of streets is merely the next step in what has been a four-year process of trying to assign addresses to local residents. Currently, there is no addressing system in the borough. 

Next week, the borough will hold three virtual public hearings, all on Zoom. The meetings will be held Tuesday, April 6 at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 7 at 6 p.m. and Thursday, April 8 at 6 p.m. The Zoom links are available on the Denali Borough web page.

The Tuesday meeting will cover Cantwell/Carlo Creek/McKinley Village and Nenana River Canyon area. The Wednesday meeting will cover the Healy area, including Ferry and Rock Creek. The Thursday meeting will cover the northern part of the borough, including June Creek, Kobe, Anderson Subdivision Brown’s Court, Clear and the landfill area.

The city of Anderson has its own addressing system and is not affected by this new system.

Each meeting will begin with an overview and a summary of the proposed street name changes in that area. Then, members of the public will be invited to offer their comments on the proposed names. 

“If people already made comments, they don’t necessarily have to repeat them at this meeting, but if they want to, that’s fine,” said the mayor. 

No action will be taken and no final decision will be made at these public hearings.

This whole process began at the request of emergency responders, who say addresses will make their response time faster and more efficient. Addresses will also help economic development in the borough, the mayor said.

“Mortgage companies, utilities, services and businesses who want to be found are all keenly interested in having a recognized address system here,” Walker said. “They feel like it will make doing business in the Denali Borough that much better.”

Change can be hard, he noted. But he pointed out that this process has been slow, methodical and deliberative.

As of Tuesday, the borough had received 81 comments via the online form, phone calls and other written correspondence. A 30-day comment period ends March 31. But there are still other opportunities to comment.

“People are engaged and a lot of them are really helpful,” Walker said.

The unnamed streets have been assigned “placeholder names” which can be replaced at residents’ requests. 

“It’s really just that,” Walker said. “To be able to track it rather than call it Unnamed Road #63. We didn’t make any claims that these proposed placeholder names are anything more than that really.”

“This isn’t the borough dictating a specific name,” he said. “We do want that grassroots local knowledge.”

“Where people along a street agree on a proposed name? Great,” he added. “Our role is to be a facilitator.”

Suffixes are garnering a lot of attention in the public comments. A suffix is the tag on a street name — court, road, lane, street avenue.

“There is a uniformity to those and the way they’re used,” he said.

For instance, the suffix tells a first responder whether the route goes north, south, east or west. There is a difference between a street and an avenue.

A road meanders and turns. A street runs north-south. A court differs from a drive and tells the responder what road features to expect on his way to his destination.

“It tells the dispatcher, the emergency responder, the delivery truck driver what type of road they are turning onto,” the mayor said.

These upcoming public hearings will not be the final chance to comment on the proposed street names.

The next step is for the Denali Borough Planning Commission to hold meetings in those specific areas of the borough, to actually approve the proposed name changes or revisions.

All the past borough meetings featuring discussions on the addressing system are available for viewing on the Denali Borough YouTube channel. See the link on the Denali Borough website.

Additional information can be found here: denaliborough.org/addressing and denaliborough.org/proposedstreetname.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.