Assembly changes subport zoning for development plans

City establishes transportation needs for next four years

Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Juneau Assembly unanimously approved an ordinance at its regular meeting Monday night to change the zoning classification of the lot where the former subport building was located on the Juneau waterfront.

The lot on the waterside of Egan Drive was changed from "waterfront commercial" to "mixed use 2" zoning, allowing for a mix of commercial and residential uses without requiring the uses to be water water-related. The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, which owns the property, has announced plans to build state offices in the area.

The zoning for waterfront property off Egan Drive is restricted to uses directly related to water, including boating, commercial freight, floatplane operations, retail services related to maritime clientele and similar operations.

The AMHTA is planning to build a $45 million, 147,000 square foot office building at the site. The state has expressed interest in leasing 90 to 95 percent of the building beginning in 2012 and relocating its departments of Labor, Corrections, Public Safety and Fish and Game to the building.

Two residents testified at the meeting in opposition of the zoning change. Dixie Hood read a poem she had composed in opposition of the zoning change, claiming the Assembly is "once again" ignoring public process and overturning the Waterfront Plan.

"Massive construction anywhere gives Assembly members a thrill, just look at the mess made of once tree-covered Telephone Hill," she read.

Dennis Harris objected to the zoning change and said he is concerned about the city protecting the water view along Egan Drive.

"We don't want to wall off our waterfront," he said. "We made this decision years ago."

Harris also brought up concerns with the height of proposed building.

"I am concerned about this because the Mental Health Trust is proposing to build a four-story building and I want to know how they can squeeze a four-story building in the 35-foot height limitation," he said.

Assembly member Jonathan Anderson clarified that the ordinance simply changes the zoning to mixed use and does not grant the trust permission to go ahead with the proposed development.

"To exceed (35 feet), the applicant will have to go to the Planning Commission and seek a variance, and that will be a public hearing also," Anderson said.

Prior to voting in favor of the ordinance, Assembly member Bob Doll said it was a slippery slope they were going down by changing the zoning in that area for non-water-dependent uses.

"This is a nationwide affliction because once that land is taken for a different use, all of those water-dependent uses are no longer possible," he said.

However, he said there are a lot of good reasons to approve the building.

"I'll support it but I don't want to do it without going on record saying this is an unfortunate choice that we have to make," Doll said.

Also at Monday's meeting, the Assembly passed a resolution that establishes the city's transportation needs list for 2010 to 2013 to be delivered to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. The projects nominated in the resolution will be considered for the department's Statewide Transportation Improvement Program. There were five categories on the list, each with five projects, including harbors, airport, parks and recreation, state projects and city projects.

For the state category, the proposed projects include extending Glacier Highway from milepost 40.5 to 91.1; sidewalk additions on Glacier Highway in the Lemon Creek Area; North Douglas Highway resurfacing and shoulder widening; Thane Road pavement rehabilitation; and intersection improvements along Egan Drive.

For the city category, the proposed projects include a second North Douglas crossing; North Douglas Highway extension; Riverside Drive rehabilitation and widening between Egan Drive and James Boulevard; bridge repair and upgrades; and work on University Drive.

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