My turn: Go with the original sewer phasing plan

Promoting development should be one of the main goals of new initiative

Posted: Friday, March 02, 2007

Please consider my opinions in response to those expressed by Ronald G. Clarke in his Feb. 26 My Turn.

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The debate is over the phasing plan. This means the question is who should get sewer service first within the North Douglas area. Should it be developed areas that are ideal for further growth and development? Or should it be developed areas that want to fix existing sewer systems?

The voters approved a 1 percent sales tax increase to pay for, among other things, an areawide sewer expansion that specifically mentions North Douglas (from the Douglas Bridge to the Bonnie Brae subdivision) as an area most appropriate for sewer service to promote development. Don't just take my word for it, please read Page 7 of the Voter Information Guide online.

The voter pamphlet clearly shows the priorities: 1) continuing Juneau's growth, 2) extend sewer to developed areas, 3) provide infrastructure for new development, 4) allow for greater densities, 5) promote development, and 6) fix existing systems. Development is ranked first and fixing existing systems is last.

I believe Rorie Watt, chief continuous improvement process engineer for the city, accurately interpreted the proposition when he devised the original phasing plan to install sewer pipes in our area first (Section D), then along the beach line (Section E), followed by other areas (sections B, A, C and F). This original phasing plan can accomplish the first five priorities in the first phase, and over time it can fix existing systems. Residents along the beach line proposed an alternate plan that can only accomplish two priorities (2 and 6) in the first and second phase; the fourth priority is not accomplished because the beach line property owners wish only to fix the existing systems.

Section D can commence first, as early as fall 2007, because there are no land easements, has little or no environmental permits needed, and is a stand-alone project that can begin in the upcoming construction season. The alternative phasing plan presented by existing residents along the beach line, rearranges priority to fix existing systems first in area E by summer 2007, then fix existing systems in area F by spring 2008, then promote development in area D by summer 2009, followed by sections A, B and C.

Nevertheless, this alternate phasing plan is filled with complexities and hurdles: Namely the city does not have beach access to areas E and F; a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit is needed; an Alaska Fish & Game permit is needed; an Alaska Department of Natural Resources tidelands lease is needed; it must go before the City Wetlands Review board; and the plan requires work around restricted work periods (fish spawning, migratory windows).

I would also point out the original phasing plan will promote development, which will satisfy the demand for affordable housing. I believe the demand for affordable housing is greater than the demand to fix existing sewer systems. It appears 55 people attended the affordable housing meeting on Dec. 2, whereas only about 21 people attended the sewer meeting on Nov. 27. If democracy rules in numbers, please count my voice as representing hundreds of potential future residents in Section D alone that want and need affordable housing. I do agree that fixing existing systems is a priority, however, to place this as a top priority, given the need for affordable housing, diverts the main purpose of the proposition.

Let's follow the voters' wishes and go with the original phasing plan so that we may continue Juneau's growth, provide infrastructure for new development and promote development.

• Gary Tigar works for Tigar Properties and is a Juneau land owner.

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