Assembly OKs land negotiation with Home Depot

City will bargain with retailer over l0-acre parcel near Costco

Posted: Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Juneau Assembly moved forward plans to build a Home Depot store in Juneau, unanimously authorizing negotiations for a sale of city land.

The Assembly on Monday empowered City Manager Rod Swope to negotiate the sale of 10 acres to the home improvement retailer. The city would sell the land at fair market value.

The property, near Costco at Lemon Creek, is part of a 30-acre gravel pit that has provided building materials for city projects since 1983. City officials said the other 20 acres will be available for other development soon.

"We encourage local businesses to send us a letter of interest so we can include their needs in the planning of the subdivision," said Lands and Resources Manager Steve Gilbertson.

At the meeting, the Assembly also authorized a lease with the nonprofit Totem Creek Inc. The organization will build a standard 18-hole golf course on city-owned land on the west side of Douglas Island near Outer Point. The lease will run 35 years with an option to renew. It will not go into effect if Totem Creek fails to find private investors for the $8 million project within five years.

Since The Home Depot expressed interest in coming to Juneau, the community has expressed starkly different views.

Supporters say The Home Depot would boost the local economy, while opponents say so-called big box retailers would threaten local businesses.

Both sides addressed their opinions to the Assembly on Monday.

Eric Forst, minority owner of the Juneau Subway sandwich store and Freakin' Pizza, said The Home Depot is a quality company and will bring good-paying jobs. "This is a rare opportunity when a major retail business wants to come here without being courted by a landlord or asking for enticement from local government," Forst said.

Resident Tom Nelson called the negotiation a "closed-door deal." "A closed-door negotiation allows certain privileges a multi-national corporation doesn't need," he said.

Gilbertson said the public will have many opportunities to scrutinize the process. The Juneau Planning Commission would review the subdivision plan for the 30 acres and the terms and conditions of the sale. The commission also would consider whether to issue a special use permit to The Home Depot, because commercial use is one of the optional uses for the industrial-zoned land.

Bruce Abel, whose family has owned Don Abel Building Supplies for 68 years, earlier suggested that the city conduct a socioeconomic study on the effects of The Home Depot on local businesses and the economy. Assembly member Marc Wheeler made a motion to ask The Home Depot to sponsor such a study, but he failed to win the support of other Assembly members.

The Home Depot has been looking for an ideal site for the past two years but couldn't find another, said Brian Cannard, real estate manager for The Home Depot's Northwest Division.

Cannard said that a typical Home Depot store would employ about 150 full-time and part-time workers, paying an average wage of $13.50 per hour with benefits. He estimates that with the value of the land and building, The Home Depot would pay about $125,000 in annual property taxes.

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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