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Amended street obstruction ordinance passes

Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2003

On a 7-2 vote after hours of public testimony and debate, the Juneau Assembly approved a city ordinance Monday night that addresses tourist season congestion downtown by prohibiting some sidewalk obstructions.

The ordinance prohibits downtown businesses from placing obstructions such as trash cans, vending machines, sandwich board signs or large stuffed animals on sidewalks.

Its most controversial provision, which would have prohibited delivery trucks from unloading during certain hours, and would stop taxis from making "flag stops" in the street, was assigned to a committee for reconsideration.

Taxi drivers and downtown business people expressed opposition to the original version of the proposed ordinance.

"By limiting my ability to make a living by telling me that I cannot discharge or load passengers ... it is going to cost me a lot of money," said Ray Lemons, who wore a red jacket with "Capital Cab" embroidered on it. "It's not right for you guys to make me front the bill for bad planning."

Lemons testified his passengers include legislators who say, " 'Take me to The Summit. Take me to the Timberwolf.' What am I going to say, 'No, I can't take you there?' " Lemon said.

The ordinance was drafted in an effort to ease vehicle and pedestrian traffic congestion during tourist season. It would be in effect from May 1 to Sept. 30, and would apply to Egan Drive roughly from Merchants Wharf to the downtown library, as well as Front Street and South Franklin Street as far as the Thane Road rock dump.

Business owners objected to the ordinance because they said freight-delivery times were too limited. Large delivery trucks would be allowed on Egan Drive downtown only before 7:30 a.m. and after 5 p.m. On Front Street and South Franklin Street, trucks would be allowed only before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. Merchants complained that loading zones were too few and too often clogged with illegally parked cars.

"If you come down to my store in the morning, the loading zone is full of private cars and the delivery trucks have to go around the block," said Paul Thomas of Alaska Cache Liquor.

Thomas said the ordinance would raise the costs of his products because he would have to hire extra staff to help unload freight early in the morning.

Leeann Thomas, owner of the Triangle Club Bar, took issue with part of the side walk obstruction provision that includes open car doors as prohibited obstructions.

"I have to truck supplies into my establishment. If my car door is open, I'm going to get a ticket? That is regular business activity," Thomas said.

Kirby Day of Princess Tours said there was no easy way to solve the problem, but that the ordinance was a good first step.

"As much room as you can make on the sidewalks, that is the right direction," he said. "Anything you do will be an improvement to what is going on downtown."

After the lengthy testimony, the Assembly voted 8-1 to amend the ordinance, removing the language about taxi cabs and large trucks and sending that portion of the ordinance to committee to be reworked. Assembly Member Stan Ridgeway voted against the amendment, saying that the entire ordinance needed revision.

"While the ordinance was publicly advertised, I think we did it in a vacuum," Ridgeway said.

The Assembly passed the amended ordinance, 7-2, with Ridgeway and Jim Powell opposing it.

"I speak against the whole ordinance. I think we need to go back to the chalkboard," Powell said.

After lengthy testimony, the Assembly voted 8-1 to amend the ordinance, removing the language about taxi cabs and large trucks and sending that portion of the ordinance to committee to be reworked. Assembly Member Stan Ridgeway voted against the amendment, saying that the entire ordinance needed revision.

The Assembly passed the amended ordinance, 7-2, with Ridgeway and Jim Powell opposing it.



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