Two private cruise ship docks won permits from the Juneau Planning Commission on Tuesday after a discussion about whether they would increase or relieve congestion downtown.
New docks at a glance
What: A 380-by-60-foot floating dock with mooring at the rock dump. The project would serve large cruise ships, and passengers would be driven downtown on shuttles.
Developers: Jacobsen Trust of Juneau and Southeast Stevedoring of Ketchikan.
When: Could be in place by 2004, depending on state permits.
What: A 400-foot floating dock, 15 to 20 feet wide, near the Franklin Dock. Would be used by 32-foot lightering boats that shuttle cruise passengers from ships at anchor, day tour vessels, small cruise ships and private yachts.
Developer: Franklin Dock Enterprises of Juneau.
When: Would open in 2004.
The separate projects would be off Thane Road, south of the downtown shopping district. One of the private docks would be near Franklin Dock and serve 32-foot lightering boats from cruise ships at anchor, small cruise ships, day tour boats and yachts. The second dock, called the Jacobsen Dock, could accommodate 960-foot cruise ships at the rock dump.
Most of Tuesday's discussion centered on the dock at the rock dump, which would sit west of the existing Taku Oil dock. Commissioners voted 5-1 to permit the new dock, rejecting a city staff proposal to require a pedestrian seawalk.
Chris Gianotti, a civil engineer who is handling permitting for developers Jacobsen Trust and Southeast Stevedoring, said cruise ship passengers and crew members would be driven downtown on shuttles. He objected to the seawalk because it would send pedestrians past a fuel tank farm.
"My client finds this unreasonable," he said, referring to the seawalk. "They believe they mitigated the problems with pedestrians with a well-developed shuttle plan. ... Although (a seawalk) would be possible to build, it would be expensive and it results in taking private property."
Staff members with the city's Community Development Department recommended the seawalk be secured or enclosed to keep people away from the tank farm. While few passengers would walk from the new dock into downtown, some would make the mile-long trek back on foot, city planner Tim Maguire said.
The Planning Commission also voted down a proposal to widen the sidewalk along Mount Roberts Street and Jacobsen Drive at the rock dump.
But developers will have to widen the turn at the Mount Roberts and Jacobsen intersection. They also will have to provide signs directing passengers to the shuttle and warning about the distance into town.
"The pedestrian walkway would be a difficult situation," Commissioner Mike Bavard said. "We routed the seawalk around Taku Smokeries ... but to put a pedestrian walkway through a tank farm doesn't make sense."
Commissioner Marshal Kendziorek said he supported the project in general, but wanted to see some pedestrian improvements before voting for it. He urged his colleagues to widen on one side of the road the 5-foot-wide sidewalks along Mount Roberts Street and Jacobsen Drive. The proposal failed on a tie vote.
"The problem is we're talking about a lot of pedestrians," Kendziorek said. "We had a woman run over by a shuttle bus near the tram last summer. That's the problem."
Representatives of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises and Tours in Juneau said their companies would be interested in using the Jacobsen Dock, which would allow ships that have anchored in Gastineau Channel to tie up in town. Supporters also said the new docks would help ease traffic congestion downtown by spreading tour buses and people along the waterfront.
Kirby Day, director of operations for Princess Cruises and Tours in Juneau, said the Jacobsen Dock will ease gridlock at the tram parking lot by moving bus staging off-site. The amount of bus traffic in downtown will stay the same, he said.
"Now you don't have all those buses trying to vie for minimal space and, at the same time, clogging up the tram lot," he said, referring to the Jacobsen Dock and staging area. "You're not creating a bottleneck next to the cruise terminal and downtown."
But opponents of the projects said improving cruise ship infrastructure downtown would increase congestion by adding more people.
"Adding more berths to cure congestion is like buying a belt to cure obesity," downtown resident Dennis Harris said. "I submit to you that we already have enough and don't need more."
Larry Spencer, a shop owner who is on the board of the Downtown Business Association, said merchants support both dock projects. He suggested the developers add restrooms and send passenger shuttles to the Steamship Wharf area.
Andrew Green, a representative with Southeast Stevedoring, said his company is open to different shuttle stops, but wants to make sure it doesn't add to congestion downtown.
"We want to be good neighbors. This project stands to benefit downtown businesses," he said.
Commissioners Bavard, Johan Dybdahl, Jacqueline Fowler, PeggyAnn McConnochie and Jim Scholz voted in favor of the Jacobsen Dock at the rock dump , while Kendziorek voted no. Commissioner Maria Gladziszewski didn't vote, citing a conflict with her job as manager of the city's tourism office.
The commission unanimously approved a permit for the 400-foot floating dock near the Franklin Dock. The project would serve 32-foot lightering boats that shuttle cruise passengers from ships at anchor, day tour boats, small cruise ships and private yachts, said developer Reed Stoops of Franklin Dock Enterprises.
Room at the smaller dock will be limited if larger ships are tied up at Franklin Dock, Stoops said. The bow line of a larger ship would prevent a smaller cruise ship from docking, although smaller lightering boats will fit, Stoops said.
The project still needs a permit to build in a moderate avalanche hazard zone, which city planner Greg Chaney described as a formality.
Dybdahl, Fowler, McConnochie, Scholz and Kendziorek voted for the lightering dock. Gladziszewski and Bavard didn't vote, citing conflicts of interest.
Commissioners Dan Bruce and Mark Pusich were absent.
The Jacobsen Dock still needs state permits, but it could be open by 2004, Gianotti said. The lightering dock could be open by 2004 and might be built in phases, Stoops said.
Joanna Markell can be reached at email@example.com.