City may increase stream setbacks

No-disturbance zone may be widened from 25 to 33 feet

Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2003

The Juneau Assembly paved the way for changes to the city's stream and shoreline setback rules Monday.

The Assembly unanimously adopted changes to the comprehensive plan that deal with streamside corridors, lake shorelines, the urban service boundary and stormwater management. The comprehensive plan, last updated in 1996, provides general policy for how the city manages land in Juneau.

Specific changes in the land-use code would need to be reviewed by the Assembly, Interim City Manager John MacKinnon said.

"If you look at the wording in here, it says it 'recommends consideration' or 'recommends updating,' " he told the Assembly. "These are not changes to the ordinance. That would be a whole other action."

Assembly members reviewed the streamside and shoreline corridor changes at several meetings last year. Monday's amendment recommends the city "consider" revising provisions of the 50-foot stream setback and increase the no-disturbance zone near streams and lakes from 25 to 33 feet. It also suggests the city evaluate establishing a 100-foot no-disturb steam setback in less-developed parts of the city.

The changes are intended to improve water quality and habitat along streams and lakes, according to Juneau Planning Commission minutes.

But the changes could affect operations at the Mendenhall Golf Course, according to Tom File, who tends the greens on the course near Industrial Boulevard. As an example, the amendment suggests the city prohibit fertilizer and other chemical lawn treatments 33 to 50 feet from the ordinary high water mark, he said.

"As it is, we're getting the greens more in order all the time so they're playable and it takes a little fertilization," he said. "And it's quite possible we're within the bounds they're talking about here."

Dave Hanna, a developer who sits on the city's Wetlands Review Board, asked the Assembly to act on the changes. Proposals that may or may not happen hinder development, he said.

"I would really like to see you actually implement some of these things and actually put them into ordinance," he said. "It will make it easier for someone to get a permit or may inspire them to do some development if they know for certain what the rules are going to be."

Existing development in a stream or shoreline setback wouldn't be affected by the changes, Deputy City Attorney John Hartle said.

"The current land use code allows so-called grandfather rights," he said. "If it's legal today, no change in the code will take that away."

Monday's amendments also recommend the city develop a stormwater management program, make the Wetlands Review Board an advisory board to the Planning Commission and include the Bonnie Brae subdivision in the urban service boundary.

The Assembly didn't act on a Planning Commission proposal to change park designations along the Montana Creek corridor.

Joanna Markell can be reached at

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