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Planning Commission hears public comments on Comprehensive Plan

Commissioners keen to incorporate relevant ideas

Posted: February 19, 2013 - 8:57pm  |  Updated: February 20, 2013 - 12:08am

Juneau residents have had quite a bit to say since comments opened for the city’s ongoing Comprehensive Plan update. It appears that their elected officials are listening.

“They put their heart and soul into this,” Commissioner Dennis Watson said of the public’s efforts.

The City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission Committee of the Whole met Tuesday night to review written comments collected from more than a week of public comprehensive plan introductory meetings in several venues around Juneau.

Commissioner Ben Haight said the commission should take the time to address each relevant comment.

“Go through chapter by chapter and review our responses,” Haight said. “Just by doing this part, addressing comments, is going to take care of 95 percent of our work load.”

Commissioner Nathan Bishop agreed.

“I feel strongly about looking at public comments closely,” Bishop said. “One by one and determine how we are going to proceed.”

Many of the comments were serious and on topic, commissioners said.

“People did their homework,” Commissioner Jerry Medina said.

The general public’s meetings averaged between five and 10 attendees with Saturday’s all-day meeting drawing the largest crowd, said CBJ planner Ben Lyman.

The city is releasing its draft Comprehensive Plan after about two years of effort. The city’s Comprehensive Plan informs the decisions of its elected officials and staff. Permits, variances and other municipal planning decision should square with the broad expectations spelled out in the plan.

The plan covers topics from transportation, economic development, housing and Juneau as a capital city among many other topics.

The 2013 plan will replace an earlier plan from 2008.

CBJ Community Development Director Hal Hart said in his conversations with Juneauites after each meeting he heard complaints that the plan is “cumbersome.”

“It’s kind of hard to grasp it all if this is your first meeting,” Hart said.

In written comments presented to the commission, locals expressed frustration with the city’s “confusing” plan.

One comment read, “…this proposed plan is 100 pages greater than Anchorage’s plan. How can this be possible?”

The strategic Comprehensive Plan is the latest in a line of comp plans that have shared a framework since 1984.

“It is time to start again with a blank page and our basic goals and policies to guide us in drafting a new, strategic Comprehensive Plan,” according to CBJ staff comments.

However, Hart said, people were thankful that city staff brought the draft plan to the community for a discussion. He said the city learned from hosting the meetings. Public meetings should come earlier in the drafting process and the meetings should be noticed further ahead of time, he said.

There was no public comment at Tuesday night’s meeting. Public testimony is welcome at the commission’s next scheduled meeting on Feb. 26.

Any written comments not already submitted will be presented to the commission at a later meeting.

Comments of all kinds will be considered throughout Planning Commission and Assembly deliberation on the plan.

Lyman said city staff plan to revisit the plan this summer and start to include information on how the city will attempt to achieve the plan’s vision.

“More of where the rubber meets the road,” Lyman said.

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

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