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City releases 2013 Comprehensive Plan

Presentations and public input on plan throughout February

Posted: February 6, 2013 - 1:02am
Margo Waring and her husband, Doug Mertz, listen to Ben Lyman, a senior community development planner for the city, during an open house at the Douglas Library on Tuesday to release a draft update to the Comprehensive Plan of the City and Borough of Juneau.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Margo Waring and her husband, Doug Mertz, listen to Ben Lyman, a senior community development planner for the city, during an open house at the Douglas Library on Tuesday to release a draft update to the Comprehensive Plan of the City and Borough of Juneau.

More than a year in the making, the City and Borough of Juneau’s 2013 update to its Comprehensive Plan is ready for public input.

The CBJ Planning Commission released its draft comprehensive plan Tuesday at the Douglas Library.

City Senior Planner Ben Lyman said the plan is aspirational in nature and allows for public input as the plan is referenced for future development. It supports a Juneau with less congestion, adequate light and air and more safety, health and general welfare.

The plan covers more than just the expected land use issues, Lyman said. It’s also about the communications coming out of the cell phone towers and whether locals have access to communications systems, he said. It covers schools and school buses and crosswalks, he said.

“It’s as much about commerce and economic development as it is about bicycles,” Lyman said.

The CBJ Comprehensive Plan has significant power to influence the look and feel of the municipality. All new ordinances, including zoning changes, must be consistent with the plan. Capital Improvement Program projects and land actions also must mesh with the plan.

“So if the city want to go out and buy a piece of property,” Lyman said, “It must be consistent with the plan.” An exception is made for gifted lands, like the Jensen Arboretum, he said.

The Planning Commission requested information from local groups, such as the Affordable Housing Commission and Juneau Economic Development Council, to help with its update to the existing 2008 plan, Lyman said. As more information poured in the rewrite grew in scope, he said.

“It kind of got away from us,” Lyman said. “We realized it really needed much more public involvement,”

The rewrite covers simple formatting and grammatical changes, land use label changes up to major rewrites of certain sections, Lyman said. He said the most significant changes were made to sections covering housing, economic development, energy, land use maps, public and private utilities facilities and transportation.

An example of change to Juneau’s transportation plan is the inclusion of consideration for living in Juneau without a vehicle. Eliminating one car could save a Juneau resident $9,000 a year, he said.

“And they have more money to put back into the economy,” Lyman said.

Juneau’s Affordable Housing Commission made a substantial re-write to the plan’s housing section with the assistance of CBJ planner Beth McKibben. However, changes are limited.

“It is more re-organized than re-written,” Lyman said. Changes include new data, graphs and charts to help clarify information, he said.

The plan’s economic development section was rewritten extensively with help from the Juneau Economic Development Council.

Lyman said the city wants its public projects tied to economic development outcomes.

“We want to see a return for the public on that,” Lyman said. “Not just ‘let’s make something pretty,’ but lets make something pretty that can benefit our economic future.”

The plan will include two new sections in 2013 on public rights of way and cellular communications towers.

Lyman said the next step is to collect suggestions and comments from the public to advise the Planning Commission and Assembly on issues covered in the 2013 draft update.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first of five in the first half of February: Feb. 7, Feb. 9, Feb. 11 and Feb. 13. The public can ask questions and offer comments at the meetings or send them to the city until Feb. 14. Assembly members will have time to go over comments before they are brought up at a special meeting on Feb. 19. The Assembly will then take public testimony on Feb. 26.

Work on the comprehensive plan is expected to continue for several weeks, Lyman said. Comments are welcome throughout the process, he said.

For more information visit www.juneau.org/cddftp/DRAFTCompPlanReview.php.

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

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