Mendenhall Loop rezoning goes before Assembly

Neighbors oppose commercial, higher density zone change

Developer Richard Harris is asking the Assembly tonight to give a commercial zoning to his property on Mendenhall Loop Road, over the objections of the city’s Planning Commission.

Harris’ property, at the corner of Mendenhall Loop Road and Atlin Street, is the location of two World War II era Quonset huts, which he said will be demolished under any development scenario.

The property’s neighbors, and city planning staff, say the property should remain in its current D10 residential zoning, with 10 units allowed per acre.

Neighbors raised concerns about increased traffic from more intensive uses Harris sought permission for, and other impacts on a neighborhood they saw as residential.

“It is unfortunate that the neighbors didn’t see this as an opportunity to improve the area rather than a treat,” said Harris’ land use consultant, Murray Walsh.

Walsh said a nicely landscaped medical office or other retail use allowed under the Light Commercial zoning Harris is seeking could have minimal impact on the neighborhood and less traffic than some options allowed under current zoning.

The area already has commercial activity, he said, including the Catholic church across Atlin from Harris’ property. The church’s pastor, however, said the rectory, essentially a single-family home, is what’s adjacent to the site.

Walsh also described the the property across Mendenhall Loop Road from Harris’ property as “commercial.” Across the road is a wooded pond, a gravel lot and a Tesoro Gas Station.

Walsh told the municipal Lands Committee that city planning staff shouldn’t have even accepted Harris’ rezoning application if it wasn’t going to recommend approval.

He also faulted the Planning Commission for rejecting the rezoning request for Light Commercia, without offering the option for a more intensive residential zoning, such as 18 units per acre.

Harris also complained that the city’s stream-side setbacks requirements took away two-fifths of his property to benefit the public.

The Lands Committee last week reviewed the rezoning request, and then forwarded it on to the full Assembly.

Committee member Johan Dybdahl said that if Harris had more development flexibility with a higher zoning, he could mitigate some of the impacts on the neighborhood.

The committee forwarded the application onto the full Assembly on Dybdahl’s motion “with the options of Light Commercial and D18, recognizing that the assembly may decide to leave it D10.”

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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