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Vista Drive housing project undergoes public scrutiny

Posted: September 30, 2013 - 10:15pm  |  Updated: October 1, 2013 - 12:02am
This graphic shows the propsed development on Vista Drive.  Courtesy of Trapline, LLC.
Courtesy of Trapline, LLC.
This graphic shows the propsed development on Vista Drive.

Developers, land owners and prospective housing managers welcomed the public’s input on a pair of adjacent housing projects planned for North Douglas Monday night.

About 50 members of the public converged on Gastineau Elementary School for the meeting which is the first step in the process of getting conditional use permits for the projects. The projects would bring a total of 76 affordable housing units to the North Douglas community.

Currently, Dave Hannah of JLC Property, Inc. owns the undeveloped land on Vista Drive. The plan is for the property to be developed after gaining two separate conditional use permits — one for a 40-unit housing complex, and the other for a 36-unit complex. It would then be sold to Volunteers of America, which would manage the housing.

Volunteers of America is a non-profit, faith-based housing provider with more than 17,000 housing units around the country.

Added amenities to the property include a 5-star energy rating, covered parking and an 1,800-square-foot community center.

The target population for these new units would be the elderly and low-to-moderate income families. Rental rates would be determined based on the tenants’ income level, with the lowest rates being $485, $585 and $1,160 per month for one, two and three-bedroom apartments, respectively.

Still, residents in the meeting expressed concerns about the safety of increasing the amount of pedestrian and vehicular traffic in that area.

“You have a very steep, windy road that empties next to another steep and windy road on a blind corner of Douglas Highway, and they want to add another 75 units without mitigating these safety hazards,” said George Cole, a retired Alaska State Trooper and Douglas property owner since 2007.

Others in the crowd said the roads are dangerous for them when walking or driving while using expensive gear like high-end snow tires and ice cleats — things low-income families may not be able to afford.

There was also concern over the long-term stability of building on the steep hillside, and requests to petition the city to reduce the speed limit on Douglas Highway in that area from 40 mph to 30 mph.

Every concern voiced by the public was recorded on a large piece of poster paper by Juneau’s senior planner for housing, Beth McKibben, who is overseeing the project.

“They were all valid,” Volunteers of America Alaska President Elaine Dahlgreen said of the issues raised. “We will be addressing those.”

McKibben encouraged the public to send concerns to her office for inclusion in the report to be presented to the City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission on Oct. 22.

The developers will be building the new road, but then giving it to the city. Because of that, concerns about the road hazards would have to be directed to the city, Dahlgreen said.

“Today the mayor pointed out that’s a city road,” she said. “So we can’t promise anything, and I don’t know what they’ll do.”

The public meeting Monday comes on heels of the Planning Commission’s approval of a separate 32-unit housing complex elsewhere on Douglas Island last week.

The Vista Drive developers hope to break ground in March.

Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at 523-2243 or at matthew.woolbright@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reportermatt.

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