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Golf course still on hold

City says it needs more info for permit; developer calls staff hostile and biased

Posted: Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Hoping to get a green light Tuesday from the Juneau Planning Commission on its permit to build a golf course on North Douglas, developer Totem Creek Inc. was told instead its application is incomplete.

"This doesn't seem like a plan. It seems like a plan for a plan," commissioner Roger Allington told the representatives of Totem Creek. "To me, there's a whole bunch of information couched in 'should' or 'would,' not 'will.' "

The commission asked the developer to supply additional information in the next few weeks. The commission plans to vote on the conditional use permit application April 10.

Totem Creek contended its application was complete. John Barnett, president of the Juneau Golf Club and Totem Creek, expressed his frustration at the process. Referring to the Community Development Department, he said, "We're dealing with a hostile and biased staff that changes the rules as we go. It is our opinion that at this point our application is complete."

More than 75 people attended the commission meeting Tuesday night at Centennial Hall, which stretched more than five hours.

Commissioner Dan Bruce said the applicant appears to be acting in good faith.

Several points of contention were raised by the city Community Development Department and the commission. The commission asked for more information about wildlife and habitat in the area, on stream buffer zones and on the use of pesticides and herbicides. The commission also requested a more detailed site plan.

Commissioners Marshal Kedziorek and Allington said the site plan and wildlife information provided to the commission in the past week was difficult to read, and asked that it be presented more clearly.

"There's a lot of information, but it's not in a form that can be used by the commission," Allington said.

To support course-developer Barnett's claim of staff hostility, Tom Findley, an attorney representing the applicant, cited examples of changing rules. Cheryl Easterwood, director of the Community Development Department, disputed Findley's assertions.

The lack of an Integrated Pest Management Plan addressing the application of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to maintain the course was a major concern for the Community Development Department and the commission.

Findley said the plan is simply to not use pesticides. But he would not agree to completely rule out their use.

Commissioners lauded the group's intent to avoid the use pesticides. But commissioners cited personal experiences and responded to testimony by the Community Development Department and members of the public, including gardening professionals, that it would be virtually impossible to maintain playable turf without pesticides.

Commissioner Allington asked Totem Creek to develop a management plan for the most probable pest scenarios.

Diane Mayer, a consultant hired by the developer, testified the application is complete, and that additional wildlife studies could be done in the future as needed.

"Where is the red flag about an area that needs more work?" Mayer said.

She cited two hypothetical examples. "Do we need to know how to manage porcupines now? To do a study now on where predator-proof nest boxes will be located? It doesn't seem warranted."

Commissioner Kedziorek expressed concern that problems could arise from phasing in data over time, instead of providing it now.

"My fear is that we might say, 'go for it,' and it could be appealed," he said.

Riley Woodford can be reached at rileyw@juneauempire.com.



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