My Turn: Pitting neighborhood against neighborhood

Posted: Monday, May 06, 2002

As a resident of Thane, I am dismayed that Egret Communications believes it has met the three criteria projected at the beginning of the tourism planning process. The criteria was to develop a plan that would:

• support a healthy and sustainable tourism industry;

• result in fewer negative impacts than those currently experienced; and

• enable the CBJ and its residents to feel "in control" of the present and future.

While the plan may support a healthy and sustainable tourism industry, for Thane residents it has failed miserably in meeting the other two criteria.

By assuming that the Baker Heliport study, with its recommendation for a north and south heliport, was a "done deal," and by recommending that the city move ahead with a heliport at Thane, Egret Communications has added the weight of it "outside consultancy" to a flawed conclusion. Neither the Baker study nor the Egret report got it right. A heliport at Thane would impact dramatically the lives of people in the entire neighborhood.

Those of us who live on Thane chose to live in a rural environment that is zoned for low-density residential development. We are part of Service Area 1, along with Douglas and downtown, and pay the same mill levy for schools, police and fire protection, capital transit, parks and recreation, fire and road maintenance. We also pay our share of the sales tax for expansion of the city water system. However, unlike the rest of Service Area 1, we have no city water, receive no road maintenance, have no parks maintained by the city and pay extra for our fire insurance because we have no city water. The city bus does not come to Thane. We are happy, however, that the police do wander down our way occasionally, and that when we have enough children at certain grade levels, they do receive school bus service.

So, while we continue to pay our taxes, we receive minimal city services. We haven't complained and other than advocating for a bicycle path for the past 10 years, we really haven't asked the city for anything. Now we are to be rewarded with a heliport that will destroy the peace and solitude that brought us to Thane. The tourism plan, if adopted and implemented, would change the nature of our neighborhood with traffic and noise.

Let's make no mistake. Neither of the two Thane sites, nor the Montana Creek site, are remote. All of them impact neighborhoods. This has been the lament of many of us who testified on this issue following the Baker study. These relocations are not solutions they merely move the problem of noise from one neighborhood to another and, in so doing, pit neighborhood against neighborhood.

The concerns of Thane residents have been dismissed by some with the notion that those of us who live on Thane don't count because we are fewer in number. My understanding of the kind of conflict resolution citizens and their elected representatives are supposed to engage in is the "win-win" variety, not "I win, you lose." The heliport relocation at Thane, as recommended in the Egret Communications plan, is a rush to a solution that won't solve anything, at least not for some CBJ residents.

My "win-win" recommendation is that the city Assembly delete this recommendation from the tourism plan as they review it and that they use the tax dollars paid by Thane residents for services that haven't been received during the past 50 years or so to find a better place for the heliport a remote place.

Marjorie Menzi has lived in Juneau for 31 years and is a member of the board of the Thane Neighborhood Association.

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