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After more than year, city plan close to approval

2013 Comprehensive Plan goes next to the Assembly for a public hearing

Posted: September 30, 2013 - 10:16pm  |  Updated: October 1, 2013 - 12:03am

After 18 months of drafting and reviewing Juneau’s newest Comprehensive Plan, an aspirational set of goals that guides the city Assembly’s decisions, the Committee of the Whole approved the plan Monday evening.

But the process isn’t quite finished. The 250-page document will go next to the full Assembly for a first read and public hearing. It will be up for approval at a second Assembly meeting.

The 2013 Comprehensive Plan is the city’s first since 2008. It includes changes and improvements big and small the Assembly wants to implement for the city, either right away or eventually.

At the Monday meeting, city senior planner Ben Lyman finished presenting the differences between the 2008 and 2013 plans. He presented the first half of the changes at the committee’s Aug. 26 meeting.

The most significant changes took place in the economic development section, Assembly Chairwoman Mary Becker said. A lot of data changes were made in the housing section, which “aligns with the Assembly’s goal to increase housing stock,” Assembly Member Jesse Kiehl said.

Many of the differences between the 2008 and 2013 plans lie in the wording. However, a few things were knocked off the 2008 checklist and didn’t need to be included in the new plan. For example, some areas of Juneau that needed sidewalks got them, Kiehl said.

Many items in the plan are already in process, he said. Projects such as a rework of the city’s transit system and revitalization of the Willoughby District are included in the plan but are already underway.

“The most important things are not waiting on the plan,” Kiehl said.

Becker said the most pressing items in the 2013 plan deal with development.

“We definitely need to implement the parts of the plan that facilitate building,” she said. “We’ve worked really hard on the housing issue.”

One of the most important things the Assembly has learned in creating the new Comprehensive Plan is the need to review chapters as they’re written, Becker said. Many involved have agreed the process has taken too long and has been “overwhelming,” she said.

“Going forward, we need to take advantage of this investment, and ask ourselves how can we improve the process for the next update,” Assembly Member Carlton Smith said at the end of the two-hour meeting. “I would like to have an opportunity to talk about it on the front end. We should have opportunity to put a spin on the document.”

Once the plan is approved, the process will begin all over again, Becker said.

“Eventually it will be adopted and then we will start writing the next one,” she said.

At the Lands Committee meeting earlier Monday evening, a lease for a cell tower at Eaglecrest Ski Area was approved and will go to the Assembly for review.

A proposal for a monetary incentive for Juneau homeowners who convert part of their properties into rental units in an effort to increase the city’s housing density was presented by the Affordable Housing Commission. The Lands Committee asked the commission to refine its proposal and present it again at a future meeting.

 Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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