City shelves building ban downtown

Assembly to focus instead on completing downtown waterfront plan more quickly

Posted: Tuesday, January 06, 2004

In a win for the building industry Monday night, the Assembly Committee of the Whole decided to indefinitely postpone a moratorium on new construction in Juneau.

The committee will focus its efforts on completing a long-range waterfront plan.

"At the end of the day, that's what you really want," Committee Chairman Jim Powell said.

A public hearing scheduled for Jan. 26 on a proposed ordinance to implement the moratorium was indefinitely postponed.

Leaders of the construction industry viewed the moratorium as a setback for economic development in a town struggling to prosper from industries other than tourism.

Assembly members called the moratorium "a blunt club that wasn't necessary" and decided to move forward on the long-range waterfront plan more expeditiously. A detailed version of the waterfront plan could be ready for Assembly review in about six weeks, Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce said.

The moratorium was based on concern that some development in Juneau may be inconsistent with the goals of the waterfront plan, Powell said.

Hotel work near the Douglas Bridge is one project that may not meet the plan's goals, said Community Development Director Dale Pernula.

Another is a proposed cruise ship dock at Gold Creek, Port Director John Stone said. The new cruise ship dock would not be allowed under the waterfront plan due to zoning changes.

The Docks and Harbors Board, Juneau Chamber of Commerce and building community criticized the proposed ordinance for a construction moratorium.

Stone reiterated some of the tenets of a Dec. 29 Docks and Harbors Board letter to the Assembly opposing the proposed ordinance.

Under city code, the board needs Assembly approval for expenditures greater than $100,000. If the Assembly determines a project is inconsistent with land-use goals, it can deny the appropriation, the letter said.

The Juneau Chamber of Commerce is staunchly opposed to a moratorium and questioned the language of the proposed ordinance.

"We don't like how it's written one way and being verbally sold another way," Chamber Executive Director Todd Saunders said in an earlier interview.

The proposed ordinance stated the moratorium would run for no longer than one year, but some officials said it would be 90 days. Other language indicated the moratorium was for the entire borough, yet officials said it would only pertain to waterfront land between the Douglas Bridge and the rock dump.

- Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.



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