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Assembly to look at planning code changes

Atlin Drive rezoning confusion spurs new ordinance

Posted: April 2, 2012 - 12:05am

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly will take a look at revamping — or just clarifying — processes primarily used by the Planning Commission.

A key issue is whether a Planning Commission denial of a project is a final decision that can be appealed to the Assembly, or just a recommendation to the Assembly. Following confusion over a proposed rezoning on Atlin Drive, the city wants an ordinance stating the commission’s vote is the final, but appealable decision.

The Assembly recently was called to hear a developer’s appeal for rezoning of property on Atlin Drive. The Assembly hearing hit a procedural speed bump when several members were confused as to why the topic came to them in the first place, and unsure of how the procedures work.

Part of the Land Use Code is a little unclear on the status of a Planning Commission denial.

The Assembly’s background documents on the issue say that Title 49 is clear that a commission approval is a “recommendation.” It isn’t clear if a denial is a fast and firm answer, or if it is a recommendation to the Assembly.

“The code is silent as to whether the action is a recommendation or a final decision if the Commission denies the rezoning,” the documentation states. “Because only final decisions of the Commission can be appealed to the Assembly, the code could be clarified if the Commission’s action is a recommendation or a final decision. The proposed ordinance would establish that the Commission’s decision for denial is a final decision that may be appealed to the Assembly.”

The Assembly also will look at approving an ordinance that changes Title 53 of the Land Use Code, which lays out how the city is to deal with its actual property.

“Title 53 has not undergone a comprehensive review since the early 1980s,” the Assembly documents state. “Proposed amendments are being developed incrementally, starting at the beginning of Title 53. The first portion of Title 53, addressing land acquisitions, was amended by ordinance in January 2011.”

The next sections have been worked on and are being recommended by the Planning Commission and Lands Committee. The changes clean up redundancies and obsolete processes such as “deleting status maps and classification, overhauling the Land Management Plan, and establishing a new biennial reporting system to replace the land disposal schedule.”

The Assembly also will look at approving an ordinance that changes the city Comprehensive Plan regarding the Willoughby District.

This is part of the Title 49 revision and would adopt the planning concept for the district along with “Chapter 5.” Chapter 5 is the Willoughby District Land Use Plan that includes specifications for making the district more pedestrian friendly, along with increasing residential areas and decreasing the amount of visible grey-space parking.

The guide encourages building to the setback lines, multi-story buildings (two to five), buildings facing the street, ground-floor retail with residential in upper stories, interesting facades, parking at the rear, side or under the buildings, hidden dumpsters or mechanical equipment.

Some of the goals are to make it more user friendly for both pedestrian and vehicle traffic, more visually appealing — less industrial, and encourage more residential opportunities.

In other business, the Assembly will look at bid approval for two school projects, bond financing and several standard fund transfers.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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