The owner of one of Juneau’s trademark natural attractions is looking to make a change — again.
Spike Bicknell, the owner of Bicknell, Inc., owns an 83-acre piece of land that includes Honsinger Pond and the so-called “Field of Fireweed,” located just off Egan Drive near the Juneau International Airport. Bicknell recently applied to convert 23 acres of that property for industrial use, and the City and Borough of Juneau’s Planning Commission supported his application in January.
The CBJ Assembly will consider the application at 5 p.m. Monday, and members of the public are invited to attend and share their thoughts. The issue has been a hotly-contested one in past years when Bicknell has made similar applications, but CBJ Planning Manager Beth McKibben noted that public furor doesn’t seem quite as intense this time around.
“What’s interesting, is in the previous two rezone requests, there was a lot of input from the public, a lot of interest,” McKibben said. “In this last time, not so much.”
The zoning change would convert 23 acres of the property — including part of the pond itself — from what’s called “rural reserve” (RR) to an “industrial” zone. CBJ’s Land Code defines RR as land primarily devoted to the conservation of natural resources, while defining an “industrial” zone as land that accommodates “manufacturing, processing, repairing and assembling goods.”
Multiple local organizations such as the Audubon Society have expressed concern. Local resident Susan Erben, who testified against the rezone during the Jan. 24 Planning Commission meeting, has remained vocal about the issue.
“This is the beauty of Juneau,” Erben said Friday, “and to say, ‘OK, let’s muck it up,’ or, ‘It’s OK to muck up because we don’t have enough industrial land,’ it’s silly. We’ve got to hold on to our valuable scenery to make Juneau special. That area … is our gem.”
Though Bicknell has said that he doesn’t yet have a specific plan for the rezoned property, this is far from his first attempt to rezone the land. In 2012, Bicknell applied to rezone 20 acres of it for industrial purposes and the rest to be rezoned for commercial purposes, but withdrew that application before it reached the Planning Commission. In 2013, he applied once again to rezone parts of it, but neither the Planning Commission nor the Assembly supported the application. In 2015, Bicknell and CBJ unsuccessfully tried to negotiate for a land swap involving the property.
Suitable industrial land is hard to find in Juneau, and the Planning Commission deemed that this area could work as an industrial area and could help Juneau’s economy grow. The process still won’t be easy for Bicknell, who needs to develop an access road to the plot.
Bicknell also sent an application to the Community Development Department (CDD) for a motocross park at the site. A motocross site is allowed in either the RR or industrial zone with an approved permit, but McKibben said the CDD has not yet accepted that application because Bicknell still needs to obtain a driveway permit from the Department of Transportation.
According to the minutes from the Oct. 20, 2016 Wetlands Review Board meeting, Bicknell said that the motocross park would only be there temporarily for “approximately three years until the property is developed for other purposes.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2271.