Those who wish to appeal Assembly decisions will have to pay twice as much to do so, now that a resolution has been passed changing the fee from $250 to $500.
At its Monday meeting, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly voted to increase the fee in hopes of recouping some of the losses the city incurs when appeals are filed.
The fee of $250 hadn’t been increased in 18 years. Mayor Merrill Stanford said each appeal filed with the city costs anywhere between $300 and $1,600 in document copying alone.
“We should be recouping some of our expenses,” he said.
Assemblywoman Karen Crane said she thought a fee of $500 might be exclusionary. Already, $250 is pricey for some people, she said.
“I think $500 could keep some people from going forward with an appeal,” she said. “I think we’re just making it more difficult for people to interact with local government.”
Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl said he was “torn” about raising the cost to appeal Assembly decisions. Although he doesn’t like that the city is losing money on each appeal, “access to challenge city agencies isn’t a fee-for-service business.”
“It seems the $250 in place now is enough to beat back the ‘oh, why not, give it a shot’ appeals,” he said. “We’re never going to recoup our expenses on this.”
City clerk Laurie Sica, who handles appeals, said there is a vetting process and a form to fill out for people who can’t pay the $250.
“I’ve never had to issue one,” she said.
The process for people who cannot pay the fee will stay the same through the ordinance. Sica said the city usually receives one to two appeals per year, but in the last two years it has seen seven or eight. The increase is also meant to help with the city budget deficit, she said.
The resolution passed 5-2, with Kiehl and Crane voting against.
Also at the meeting, the assembly approved a rezone of 152 acres on Pederson Hill in Auke Bay. The aim is to develop the land for affordable homes; increasing the city’s available affordable housing is one of the Assembly’s top goals.
The land is currently undeveloped and zoned D1(T)D5. Monday’s ordinance rezoned the area to D10, which allows 10 units per acre. So, in a perfect world, 1,520 units could be built on the land.
But, practically, that’s not possible, city Lands and Resources manager Greg Chaney said. Roads must be built, and there’s different types of land within the parcels that have different building rules, he said.
“You have wetlands, you have really steep slopes,” Chaney said.
The plan is to develop about 150 homes on the land over 10 years, he said. Each property will be about 40 to 50 feet wide and about 80 to 100 feet deep. The density will end up looking like the downtown neighborhoods, Chaney said.
“It’s not substandard or scrunched,” he said.
In light of the ongoing discussion about funding the Augustus Brown pool during the recent fiscal year 2015 budget cycle, the Assembly voted Monday to establish an empowered board to oversee the city’s two pools. It also voted to discuss putting the Treadwell Ice Arena under the purview of the Eaglecrest Ski Area board, another empowered board.
A number of public hearings will take place during the next regular Assembly meeting June 30. The public will be able to speak on the city’s new cellphone tower master plan, e-cigarette policy changes, and an increase of the city’s water and wastewater rates, among other topics. The full agenda will be posted to www.juneau.org/assembly/novus.php.
• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.