Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to clarify that the proposal was a change in the Comprehensive Plan Map, not an immediate rezoning.
A proposal that would allow a developer in the future to fill part of an old gravel pit near the airport known as Honsinger Pond and allow industrial uses on part of the land under the city's Comprehensive Plan Map goes to the City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers.
The gravel pit turned pond has been branded a safety hazard, as it attracts large birds to a spot near Juneau International Airport.
Approving this change in allowable future land uses would require the Borough Assembly to amend the city’s Comprehensive Plan Map. The plan recommends that the borough eventually purchase the area to preserve the wetlands. The same document also notes the need for additional industrial land.
The developer in December pulled his previous request to get the whole 82.66 acre parcel changed to Industrial and Light Commercial uses just hours before a hearing.
The new request is different.
Commissioners Tuesday night will be asked to keep undeveloped areas as “Rural Reserve” land while allowing future development of disturbed areas that were used until the 1970s for gravel extraction.
Landowner Bicknell Inc. wants part of the parcel to become 26 acres of General Commercial uses, and 30 acres to become Industrial. That would leave about 37 mostly undisturbed acres zoned as Rural Reserve, according to the city’s report.
The pond would be almost completely filled if the land were to be developed.
City planning staff objected in their report to allowing any of that land to be zoned in the future for General Commercial, as housing could be allowed in such a zone. The land is too close to the airport to be suitable for housing, they wrote.
The recommend the commission make all the disturbed land as Industrial use.
Opponents are spreading the word and sending out links to the Planning Commission’s report.
“This is the same beautiful and environmentally rich stretch of land just off the Egan Expressway that generated 59 opposing letters and e-mails from the public in December of last year,” project opponent Patricia O’Brien wrote in a letter meant to rally opponents to write the city comments about the plan before the meeting.
There were just three comments on file when the staff report was readied for commissioners on April 4.
In May 2012, according to planning documents, the Wetlands Review Committee found the best use of this land was to restore developed portions and not disturb the undeveloped portions. Filling the pond would also benefit the airport by “removing the pond that attracts large birds and also provide an additional buffer to the Mendenhall State Game Refuge.”
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game did not object to filling the pond, which it does not consider suitable as a place of salmon to thrive over the winter months.
An airport representative told planners the pond creates a safety issue at the airport to attraction of large waterfowl.