City turns to negotiations to resolve noise complaints

Seattle consultant would help factions find middle ground

Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2000

The people who make noise and the people who hate it have confronted each other in Juneau for about 10 years. And that's all that has happened - except that flightseeing traffic has increased along with the complaints.

But the possibility of a negotiated settlement is in the works.

The Juneau Assembly agreed Monday night to pay a Seattle consultant $4,000 to come to Juneau and conduct interviews for three or four days, to determine whether there's a possibility of finding a middle ground, according to City Manager Dave Palmer.

The money would come from the city manager's contingency fund.

``In the past, with the Tourism Advisory Committee and the (assembly) Planning and Policy Committee, we've gone through so many meetings and covered the same ground,'' said Caryl McConkie, the city's tourism coordinator. ``We've been getting the same letters over the last 10 years.''

All the research and analysis has not been enough, she said.

The consultant, Lois Schwennesen, works for Seattle's Triangle Corp., a public policy and environmental mediation firm.

Schwennesen has been working as a consultant with National Forest Service District Ranger Pete Griffin. ``The Forest Service asked me to look at the controversy over helicopter landing permits and to advise whether the affected parties might be able to work together to design alternative solutions,'' she said today from Seattle.

``I suggested that the noise issue is greater than the problem of the number of landing permits,'' she said. ``And perhaps the Forest Service, the CBJ, citizens' groups, flight operators and cruise ship operators might want to consider looking at the real problem: Balancing the noise issue with the quality of life.''

Assembly Planning and Policy Committee Chairman Tom Garrett said he was hopeful negotiations would take place. But he was also mindful of the difficulties in choosing who would negotiate for the citizens' groups, he said. ``The hardest thing to determine is whether there's an organized group at all.''

Schwennesen was asked by city staff whether she could set up a structured negotiating process. ``I will come and interview and talk with all parties that would negotiate before I could agree to start one,'' she said. ``Because I'm a neutral, I need to know that all parties want me to represent them.

Whether the citizens' groups are interested is the threshold question, Schwennesen said. ``That's going to be the most difficult and immediate nut to crack.''

It's critical that representatives at the negotiating table are able to take direction, and that applies to all who are at the table, she said.

Triangle has conducted mediation on such issues as nuclear waste disposal as well as aircraft noise. The latter involved a successful resolution of a confrontation between the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and nearby residents affected by airport noise, she said.

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