The Juneau Assembly has told the Juneau Planning Commission to look again at its decision to deny a permit to a proposed lodge at North Tee Harbor. Some neighbors, concerned about traffic and what they saw as the project's uncertain scale, had opposed the permit.
Six assembly members, meeting as an appeal board before the assembly's regular session Monday, unanimously granted the appeal of property owners Daniel Malick and Kristine Trott-Malick. The assembly said the planning commission didn't have substantial evidence to support its decision.
The commission in September unanimously rejected the Malicks' request for a conditional use permit for a two-bedroom bunkhouse-style lodge for short-term rentals.
"I just see tremendous problems with their request, and I'm just really disappointed," Gary Miller, an executive board member of the North Tee Harbor Neighborhood Association, said today.
But Daniel Malick said the assembly's decision sets a new standard for denying conditional use permits: "Uncertainty is no longer going to be a valid reason to fight a project in order to kill it."
The Malicks own 5 acres in a residential neighborhood at North Tee Harbor. They have lived there for 18 years, Daniel Malick said, and run a bed-and-breakfast in a one-bedroom cabin. But they need a conditional use permit to use another building, which they renovated, as a lodge. The Malicks also would put in four tent sites, creating in all room for up to 28 overnight guests, the city estimated.
Some neighbors opposed the proposal, saying traffic from the resort, including for weddings and other events, would be unsafe on narrow Cohen Drive, where people walk. They also feared the resort would draw floatplanes and charter boats.
The commission, in denying the permit, said the Malicks' narrow, steep driveway was unsafe for commercial use and the project wouldn't be in harmony with the neighborhood. The panel also said the project was inconsistent with the city comprehensive plan, which says tourism should address community concerns.
But Daniel Malick said Monday his proposal would preserve the neighborhood by allowing him to pay for the 1.7-acre lot the lodge is on, rather than selling it, at which point it could be subdivided for several homes. But after the meeting some neighbors scoffed at the idea that one or two homes would be more disruptive than a lodge.
"I'm not building anything here. I'm stopping building something there," Malick told the appeal board. He said the commission had listened to neighbors' emotions, not technical information, in denying his permit.
Some neighbors who opposed the project are concerned the appeal board didn't follow city rules. Appeals aren't a reconsideration of a proposal's merits, they said, but a review of whether the commission allowed due process, had adequate written findings and supported them with substantial evidence.
"What they were supposed to see is if the planning commission acted appropriately," said Miller, who is on the neighborhood association. "The questions they were asking veered completely away from what the assembly was supposed to be asking."
Malick said he is willing to accept some conditions on a permit. He said he would follow any suggestions from the city fire marshal on how to make the 1,300-foot driveway safer. And he would agree to limit people on site to 28 at one time except for 20 times a year. But neighbors said Monday that still would be a huge number of visitors.
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.