Commission nixes Madsen rezoning request

Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2000

Neighbors of hotelier Don Madsen's property in the Juneau Airport neighborhood got an implied apology from a Madsen associate Tuesday for land-use conflicts that occurred during the past year.

But the Juneau Planning Commission rejected Madsen's request to rezone two lots where commercial activity has been taking place in a residential zone.

The commission approved a street vacation that is expected to ease traffic congestion in the area. And the 4-2 vote against the rezoning isn't final: The issue will come up again before the commission Feb. 8.

Tensions flared last summer as Madsen, doing business as D&M Rentals, won approval to build a hotel near Glacier Highway and Mendenhall Loop Road, next to his Frontier Suites Airport Hotel, which opened in June 1998.

Richard Young, whose home at 2327 O'Day Drive is bordered on two sides by Madsen property, complained that the developer was getting around the city height restriction for the new hotel by creating a berm to throw off the measurements. The city has since closed that loophole.

Young said Madsen erected a plywood fence a few feet from his home - which included garish splotches of purple, lavender, pink and red - in retaliation for his complaint.

Meanwhile, Young and other residents near the intersection of Lee Smith Drive and O'Day Drive continued to complain Madsen's O'Day Drive duplex was being used to support the hotel construction activity.

City inspectors cited Madsen for violations of the residential zoning, and the developer applied for a rezoning of the duplex property to make it light commercial.

On Tuesday, Madsen partner Henry Tiffany attempted to put the best face on D&M's activities, even agreeing with Young and homeowner Ben Woods that there was too much noise and traffic generated by construction. But he said those concerns should lessen as work comes to a close, and pointed out that it would be in Madsen's best interests to avoid disturbing hotel guests with noise.

As for Madsen's disregard for the residential zoning at the duplex, where he stored commercial vehicles over a period of months, Tiffany said: ``My partner's skillful at getting things off on a left foot. ... He thought this was his duplex - D-5 (residential zoning) notwithstanding - he could use it for his own things.''

``Why did you put up such a clearly provocative fence?'' asked Planning Commissioner Marshal Kendziorek.

Tiffany said Madsen was under pressure from city staff to partially obstruct Young's view of the hotel construction. ``I think we were told, `Do it; do it now.'''

City planner Heather Marlow recommended denial of the rezoning, saying too many extra conditions would be needed to ease concerns about extending the light commercial zone.

Madsen attorney Fred Baxter contended the problems with clashing land uses were largely illusory, calling them ``nonsubstantiated conflicts'' and ``conflicts of (city) staff.'' Kendziorek responded that he was ``downright shocked'' at that description.

``There is a pretty constant parade of vehicles through that property,'' homeowner Woods said of the duplex. With the rezoning, Madsen would have a free hand on the property and conceivably could open a nightclub, he said.

Commissioners Mike Bavard, Kendziorek, Merrill Sanford and Tracey Ricker voted against the rezoning, with Mark Pusich and Jody Vick voting in favor. Dan Bruce recused himself, citing a conflict of interest. Commissioners Johan Dybdahl and Ken Williamson were absent.

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