Commission reverses rezone decision, OKs union building project

Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Juneau Planning Commission voted Tuesday to allow a union to rezone its lot on West Ninth Street to build a larger office building in the downtown flats area.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

The action reversed a Feb. 26 decision that would have prevented Public Employees Local 71 from completing its project in the Casey-Shattuck subdivision. At that meeting, the commission considered rezoning four lots, not one.

On Tuesday, the commission decided to keep it simple.

The union applied for a rezoning because it wants to rebuild an office building, making it larger, at 910 West Ninth St. It can't do so under its existing D-5 zoning.

Seeking a smooth transition between commercial uses and the subdivision, city staff suggested the commission rezone three adjacent lots to light commercial.

The four-lot rezoning was unpopular among neighborhood residents who said it could create too much noise, traffic and parking congestion.

Many comments submitted at the February meeting or in writing indicated, however, that neighbors didn't object to Local 71's proposed project.

Commissioners could have voted on the single lot in February, but decided instead to vote on the four-lot rezoning. The motion failed.

Commissioner Dan Miller asked for the reconsideration Tuesday. Had staff not broadened the scope of the rezoning, he said, "It probably would have gone into the consent agenda, and we would have passed it without any debate at all."

Commissioners Dan Miller, Linda Snow, Dennis Watson and Maria Gladziszewski approved the single rezoning, as they had the four-lot rezoning at the last meeting. They were joined this time around by Commissioner Frank Rue, who was absent from the last meeting.

Commissioners Nancy Waterman and Michael Satre voted against rezoning the single lot, as they voted against the four-lot rezoning.

Satre said he did not consider Local 71's neighborliness in his decision, because the zone would remain if Local 71 were to sell the lot.

"We have to look past the intended use of this building," he said.

Gladziszewski, in favor of the rezoning, responded to local residents who were concerned that more commercial activity in the area would hurt the neighborhood's character. The area was already substantially mixed-use, she said.

"I also grew up in a neighborhood that's mixed-use, and don't fear it at all," she said. "There is not going to be a rock-crushing operation there."

Commissioners Vic Scarano and Dan Bruce were absent from the last two meetings.

The planning commission considered several other items Tuesday:

• Commissioners decided not to allow the National Education Association to build eight parking spaces instead of the required 10. They did, however, allow the association to use rooftop planters as part of its requirement to cover 5 percent of the lot with greenery. It is the first time the commission has considered such a solution to the greenery requirement.

• The commission approved, in its consent agenda, a time extension for Northstar Trekking's conditional use permit for a 5,000-square-foot helicopter passenger terminal expansion. It was originally approved in 2006 and would otherwise expire soon.

• Commissioners, city planners and the city-hired transit consultant discussed the current draft of the transit plan.

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