The Juneau Planning Commission on Tuesday approved a new road on the Point Lena Peninsula, to the chagrin of some area residents concerned it will lead to further development.
In 7-1 vote, the commission approved a 5,200-foot road crossing the southern interior of the peninsula. The road will access a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries research center, which has been funded, and a proposed research facility for the University of Alaska.
The road will depart South Lena Loop Road near the existing Federal Aviation Administration site and reconnect with South Lena Loop Road between Towers Road and the NOAA facility. It can be built for $2.7 million, part of which is funded by NOAA.
The road is intended to lessen the impacts of traffic to and from the fisheries centers, a concern that local residents have expressed, city officials have said.
But residents still are not convinced the commissioners are hearing their concerns.
"I'm not surprised by this decision," said resident Ellen Varosi. "Ever since the NOAA project was proposed, the city has been doing everything it can to push it through no matter what. ...
"And then they break up the issues involved at meetings so that you can't just talk about the project and express your concerns, you have to talk about the part of the issue they have on the agenda that night and it's frustrating.
"I am concerned that they are going through the motions of public process and not really listening."
Commissioner Marshal Kendziorek agreed in part and voted against the road.
"I don't think we are answering residents' concerns with this road as far as mitigating traffic in their neighborhood," said Kendziorek. "Frankly I think the whole (NOAA) project is in the wrong place. I can't support this motion."
Commissioner Jim Schulz, who voted in favor of the road, said the NOAA project is going to be built. "If we don't approve the road, the residents will be worse off in terms of traffic."
Resident Kristen Robinson told commissioners Tuesday that the road is just the first step to a 150-home subdivision slated for that area. She said she's worried that the subdivision's sewage will flow onto the beach and into the ocean.
Planning Director Dale Pernula told the commission it is too early to determine where sewer lines in the area will be located.
Robinson said she also was concerned that development, which will include blasting in the area, will affect nearby wildlife such as the eagles that use four nests within 330 feet of the proposed road.
The commission approved a variance Tuesday that allows construction near these nests only when the nests would be empty, as determined by the state Department of Fish and Game.
The commission also adopted recommendations from planning staff, including widening the Lena Loop roadway from Towers Road to the NOAA facility for safer pedestrian traffic, and measures to protect the surrounding environment and prevent erosion near the new road.
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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