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New cell tower approved by city planners

Posted: August 29, 2012 - 11:50am  |  Updated: August 29, 2012 - 10:05pm

Juneau’s Planning Commission unanimously approved a new cell tower off Montana Creek Road when it met Tuesday night in the Assembly Chambers.

The 100-foot-tall structure will be painted green or brown and sit on leased land near the future site of previously-approved mini storage units. Screening vegetation will be planted but part of the tower will still be visible above trees.

The permit vote was postponed two weeks due to early removal of a city public notice about the project. At a previous hearing one resident spoke in favor of the tower and one against. Commissioners also received three letters in opposition and two in support of the new tower. Commissioners were running out of time under statute to act on the permit.

One resident spoke last night, asking whether the city could consider possible health effects from tower signal emissions.

Federal communications law prohibits local jurisdictions from regulating cell towers based on health concerns, said Planning Manager Greg Chaney.

The tower was sought by Coogan General LLC and will be located at 5600 Montana Creek Road.

In other business, the commission approved a change in Land Use Code language that a staff report said would create equal treatment for people who own non-conforming structures that meet legal requirements and are outside of Juneau and Douglas.

The old wording made no allowance for reconstructing older structures, or structures in subdivisions that do not meet current standards, if the land they sit on is outside those geographic designations.

Planners also discussed with a project applicant Murray Walsh from Grant Creek Properties whether a homeowner’s association would be needed to oversee maintenance of a shared driveway at 4275 North Douglas Highway, the proposed site of four homes. City engineers and the fire department had raised serious concerns to planners. Those included concerns about snow plowing and emergency access, and whether the rear of the structures could be served by the fire crews if firefighters had to stage on the highway due to the length of the driveway.

Planners, some of whom shared their negative experiences working with neighbors to maintain an access road in the winter, favored establishment of an association or some kind of oversight group.

After press time the commission heard about a proposed 22-unit project on Atlin Drive and Mendenhall Loop Road proposed by applicant Richard Harris. The property currently is the site of some old Quonset huts from a World War II-vintage U.S. Army garrison. The huts are in disrepair and have lost their historical context, according to a staff presentation.

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