Density, height ordinance passes planning

Juneau’s Planning Commission passed an ordinance that attempts to increase affordable housing with increases in population density and building height in certain areas through the city.

In areas designated Light Commercial, residential density increases from 18 to 30 dwelling units per acre. General Commercial lots can house 50-unit dwellings per acre, up from 18. And MU2 areas can house up to 80 units per acre.

The ordinance officially designates Waterfront Commercial and allots 18 dwelling units per acre.

This provides a smooth transition from commercial to residential areas, City Planner, Ben Lyman said.

Lyman said Juneau’s current code limits are hurting development.

“Right now residential development isn’t happening in our commercial zones because 18 units per acre just doesn’t work financially, Lyman said.

“But at 30 units per acre, something changes. It allows them to build unsubsidized affordable housing in Juneau,” Lyman said.

“We’re trying to find tools for developers to grow in a way we want the community to grow,” Lyman said. “If we put the tools out there maybe somebody can be creative and make it work.”

Chairman Michael Satre said the changes in the ordinance could result in construction of affordable housing.

Brian Holst, director of the Juneau Economic Development Council testified in favor of the ordinance.

It is “consistent with meeting the needs in our community,” Holst said, “to make a vibrant center to work and play.”

Vice-Chair Dennis Watson called the ordinance one of the commission’s most progressive in some time.

“I’m optimistic that something like this is going to take hold,” Watson said.

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

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