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Low-income housing developers meet with Douglas neighbors

Concerns raised over proposed 40-unit complex on Vista Drive

Posted: June 27, 2013 - 9:49pm  |  Updated: June 28, 2013 - 12:06am
Ron Bateman, the architect of a proposed, 40 unit low-income apartment complex on Vista Drive in Douglas, addresses Crest Homeowners concerns at a public meeting Thursday.   KENNETH ROSEN
KENNETH ROSEN
Ron Bateman, the architect of a proposed, 40 unit low-income apartment complex on Vista Drive in Douglas, addresses Crest Homeowners concerns at a public meeting Thursday.

The concerns of Crest Condominium homeowners were heard by representatives of several organizations that are planning to construct new housing in their backyards on Douglas.

The proposed 40 unit complex on Vista Drive would provide apartments for low-income families and community members seeking affordable housing. The project is in its early stages of development and has not yet entered the city planning process.

“When you hear about affordable housing, you think it's subsidized housing,” said Elaine Dahlgren, CEO of Volunteers of America Alaska. “When it says affordable housing, it looks at the other side of the scale where students, young couples with children, someone who might be disabled, a veteran, or young people can rent.”

Volunteers of America National Services, Volunteers of America Alaska and development partners Trapline LLC and V2 joint-ventured the project to construct and manage the additions.

Fifteen units would be open to all income levels, but would be ultimately based on the selection process decided by the property's owner, a limited liability company controlled by VOA. Twenty-five units would target those with incomes between $21,163 and $48,920.

“There is a very strong black line of who can live in there,” said Dahlgren.

For an income-restricted single bedroom, the rent could be as low as $530. At the other end of the spectrum, a three bedroom non-restricted apartment could cost $1,700 a month.

“Our long-term plan is to provide decent housing for people that's affordable,” said Dahlgren.

Homeowners below the proposed construction site voiced concerns about the project and feared that it had been fast-tracked through the city without their knowledge.

"Bigwigs and rich contractors from Anchorage are spearheading this boondoggle that is quietly being pushed through with the tacit help of our politicians and bureaucrats," wrote George Cole, a Crest Condominium owner, in a letter to the Empire last week.

When the project was awarded a grant in May through the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, some felt blind-sided.

Their concerns focused on the devaluation of their property, safety concerns over increased traffic into the complex and general noise levels during construction.

“We're really early in the project right now,” said Ron Bateman who is the architect for the project. “We can't say with certainty what every part of the project will be.”

The project has not gone through the City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission to receive any of the required conditional use permits and at this stage has only been funded, a relief to many in attendance.

“It's too early to know what my concerns are because it's still conceptual,” said Laurie Fuglvog, a Crest Condominium owner.

Fuglvog also worried that the project didn't consider issues with access and noise levels until the developers reassured homeowners that they were coming to them first to hear their concerns

“Safety is a very important topic for us and we're going to look at how to improve that,” said John McGrew of V2. “We're going to go through the normal process. I don't think we're asking for anything special. The sooner that we can provide [affordable housing], the better.”

Along with better access roads and safety measures for the steep, icy climb to the apartments during wintertime, some in attendance wanted to make sure the housing would be considered for senior citizens.

That concern was echoed and addressed in a meeting Wednesday night regarding assisted-living for seniors where more than 120 were in attendance, including the Juneau delegation.

The property on Vista Drive would include such amenities as a community center, a playground, geothermal heating systems and a five-star plus energy rating.

The project has no official timeline, but the developers hope to break ground next spring.

“We are not here to upset your whole neighborhood,” said Dahlgren. “What we really want to do is house people who can't afford to live in any other place.”

• Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.

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