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Updated comprehensive plan pushes for further CBJ development

Bronze whale, Seawalk projects coming this winter

Posted: July 1, 2013 - 9:23pm  |  Updated: July 2, 2013 - 12:08am

The City and Borough of Juneau Comprehensive Plan is being updated to meet current housing demand and the need for a decisive economic development strategy.

Before the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly of the Whole, Hal Hart, CBJ Director of Community Development, pointed out significant changes to the Comprehensive Plan.

“There’s a lot of technical information in this document,” said Hart. “And the technical information supports the policy.”

In 2011, staff began to review the Comprehensive Plan from 2008.

The more than 100-page plan is a difficult read and in revision has grown substantially with efforts from the Juneau Economic and Development Council and other city bodies to improve its forward-thinking purpose.

It aims at several long-term initiatives to improve general health and welfare, street congestion, public transportation and increased housing development.

“This is a 20-year plan,” said Hart. “We’re looking out into the future.”

The Comprehensive Plan in its entirety are guidelines and policies that protect public and private land and land use in the City and Borough.

“Is there anything in here that will hold up economic development?” said Mayor Merrill Sanford. “Do you think it’s really good for our community?”

It was made clear that the plan, overall, is an “aspirational” one, not one set in stone.

“It’s not poured in concrete, it’s a guideline,” said Dennis Watson, vice-chair of the Planning Commission. “It is a guiding document we take seriously, but it’s not poured in concrete.”

At the meeting Monday, the updated Comprehensive Plan was only part of a larger discussion surrounding city projects, including the downtown Seawalk, the airport snow removal facility and Juneau’s big, bronze whale.

Juneau resident Jo Ann Lockwood has continually questioned the methods by which city agencies obtained permits and permission to move forward with projects having never gone through public or Assembly review.

Rorie Watt, CBJ Engineering Director, addressed recent public concerns, and Lockwood’s, over projects not adhering to review standards and city permitting processes.

Most recently, Lockwood found inconsistencies with efforts placed into the snow removal facility slated for the airport.

“The error we made on this project was not taking it to a generalized review of the Planning Commission,” said Watt. The department said they will review the process that decides which projects go before the Planning Commission and onto the Assembly.

“I think we always have to remember the public comment portion of the process,” said Assembly Member Karen Crane.

Meanwhile, the snow storage facility is nearing completion. But plans to move forward with the Seawalk and Merchants Wharf are underway. Both are expected to go before the Assembly prior to construction.

The Seawalk and expanded cruise ship dock, bundled into $15 million granted by the CBJ, will begin its first phase on the south dock by Taku Fisheries, extending north about 1,000 feet.

As part of the Seawalk project near the Douglas Bridge, the CBJ’s $2.2 million life-size bronze whale is expected to arrive soon.

To view the Comprehensive Plan and Seawalk documents, go to juneau.org. For a roundup of weekly city meetings, go to juneauempire.com every Friday and navigate to “Staff Blogs.”

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

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