Assembly upholds planning decision for B-and-B

Posted: Tuesday, February 05, 2002

The Juneau Assembly on Monday upheld a Planning Commission decision to allow an Atlanta couple to build a bed-and-breakfast in a residential area near Glacier Highway.

The Assembly decided the Planning Commission had enough evidence in October to grant a conditional use permit to Roy and Elva Buehler to build a 10-person B&B. The Buehlers' land is a vacant plot next to homes on Hamilton Street off Glacier Highway near the Emmanuel Baptist Church.

The Hamilton Street Homeowners Association appealed the decision to the Planning Commission late last year. When the commission upheld the conditional use permit, the association appealed to the Assembly.

Association spokesman Carl Ferlauto said Monday night that the commission did not have sufficient written proof or research in October to grant the permit and did not follow its own procedures.

After deliberating for over an hour, the Assembly decided the permit would stand, said Assembly member Don Etheridge, who oversaw the appeal.

"We were looking to see if the Planning Commission had followed procedures," said Etheridge. "We found they had followed procedures as of norm."

Under the Planning Commission's rules, all interested agencies should be notified of upcoming projects. Ferlauto argued that the commission did not notify any agencies.

He said the commission should have notified the state departments of Environmental Conservation and Fish and Game because a B&B in the neighborhood would tax the already failing septic systems and the area's poor soil, causing pollution.

Greg Chaney, a planner with the city Community Development Department, spoke on behalf of planning staff and the commission. Chaney said that although it is a requirement to notify the 35 state agencies that help regulate development, city staff never has.

"We don't contact the DEC on things like this because it doesn't do any good anyway," Chaney said. "They won't answer us. We try to watch our correspondence because of budget constraints, and it costs money and staff time and taxpayers' dollars to photocopy and send out notices to every agency."

He said DEC gets involved when owners apply for septic systems, which they have to do to get a building permit.

The original conditional use permit required the Buehlers to hire a civil engineer to design their septic system and to comply with the color scheme standards in the neighborhood. The Assembly repealed those conditions. Chaney said any septic system must be approved by DEC and has to be deemed adequate for the area, so hiring a civil engineer would be an unnecessary expense.

Etheridge said the Assembly will watch to see if communication improves with state agencies when the Planning Commission switches to an electronic system for communicating.

Jim Gamblin, a member of the homeowners association, said he was disappointed in the decision but believes there will be no further appeals.

The Buehlers were unavailable for comment by the Empire's midday deadline.

Melanie Plenda can be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.



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