Commission ponders rezoning tonight

Is Juneau ready for denser living?

Though houses in Juneau sometimes are so close as to share rain gutters, the population density threshold is 18 people per acre. What if that doubled?

Rezoning population density and other zoning issues are on the docket tonight at the Planning Commission.

City Planner Ben Lyman said the residents of Juneau should know what is at stake in the proposed changes.

"This is something that affects the very fabric of our community," Lyman said at the March 13 Planning Commission meeting. "We certainly have some uncomfortable transitions in our community."

City Planner Greg Cheney and Planning Commissioner Nicole Grewe agreed. They said the code changes could be seen as “stealth zoning.”

As part of the 2012 update to Juneau’s Comprehensive Plan, city planners have asked to begin a change to city code when it comes to population density and building height.

Both allow for more density in units per acre and also a height adjustment to allow easier permitting of multi-story residences.

The ordinance would double, or more, the number of dwellings per acre in current code. As many as 50 units can reside on an acre in light commercial and general commercial areas and up to 80 dwellings in the MU2 zoning district, according to the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance also raises the height limit for structures in the area to 45 feet with a bonus height of 55 feet to allow for up to 60 residential units per acre and an increase in the number of units per acre in certain areas.

Examples of unit density in existing Juneau multi-family dwellings are the Mt. Roberts Apartments at 38 dwelling units per acre, Ewing Way has 49 units per acre, MacKinnon Apartments has 108 units per acre. Mendenhall Tower topped out at 371 dwelling units per acre.

This ordinance and others are scheduled for consideration at the Planning Commission meeting at 7 p.m. tonight in the city Assembly Chambers.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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