Juneau public notice is inadequate

Alan Munro was right in his letter to the editor sharing the public outrage and disdain over the recent Planning Commission approval of an indoor gun range that touts assault style rapid fire weapons for local family fun and as a tourism attraction. Something is very wrong with the CBJ notice and approval process or in our Juneau Empire reporting or both.

I don’t know anyone who regularly scans the legal notices for upcoming hearings on issues vital to the community of Juneau. City ordinance requires only that notices for projects falling under Planning Commission review are mailed to nearby neighbors and published in the legal section of the newspaper. There is nothing to distinguish between a minor request for a variance that may affect nearby neighbors and a project of significance to users of the area or to the entire community. Three recent examples:

• Notice on Cruise Docks 16 B, a proposal for two offshore berths and moorage floats at the site of existing downtown cruise docks failed to notify harbor users and the community at large. Lack of notice was part of the appeal. The appeal was lost.

• Notice on a request to re-zone an area between the Mendenhall Wetlands Game Refuge and the airport to industrial and light commercial use got out only because a nearby neighbor was a member of Audubon and the notice was included in their newsletter. A published letter to the editor followed. Written comments from 55 citizens were generated in time for the Public Hearing. The applicant pulled the request the day of the hearing. He is expected to revise and return.

• Part of the current appeal on the proposed indoor gun range featuring assault style weapons is lack of adequate notice to the community.

Generally the members of this community learn about these projects only when the Juneau Empire publishes an article, and that generally is only after there is an appeal. By then views of community members are discounted, because they missed the hearing deadline. They missed the hearing deadline because they weren’t informed until after the deadline.

The values of the community of Juneau are at stake. I understand that wider notice is complicated in determining what is worthy of a wider notice and how a wider notice should be accomplished. This issue is worth tackling by our elected and other officials. The Juneau Empire too has a role when the city lets us down. The Empire receives and publishes many public notices and could publish stories on projects it considers significant before the Public Hearing deadline. Citizens could then participate in the review process and have their views considered, rather than discounted as too late.

Patricia OBrien

Juneau

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