Juneau is a community that takes great pride in its world-class recreational offerings. One important component, however, is conspicuously missing - a good 18-hole golf course. Juneau, in fact, may be the only community of 30,000 south of the 60th parallel without one.
The idea of a adding an 18-hole course to the recreational menu of Alaska's capital was conceived more than 20 years ago. Like all good ideas, it has been vigorously supported through the years despite suffering a phalanx of frustrating hurdles.
We're not talking about developing a lead mine or a drag strip here, as the small but concentrated opposition to this project would seem to indicate. The debate concerns a golf course on the very edge of town with grass, sand, trees and water as the most prominent components.
Let's review the chronology of events.
Juneau has had a golf club since 1957. The Juneau Sandblasters evolved into today's Juneau Golf Club and now counts over 300 members. Juneau is home to an estimated 4,000 golf enthusiasts. The Totem Creek Golf Course proposed for the North Douglas site is the dream of every one of those 4,000 frustrated golfers.
Back in 1984 after a number of public hearings and studies, the city produced a master plan. One focus of the plan was to select lands apportioned from holdings titled to the state from the federal government after statehood and the Native Claims Settlement Act. Juneau, like other Alaska municipalities, was bequeathed its share of the 105 million acres with the intent to put it to productive use.
Research supporting the master plan showed strong public favor for a new golf course. On the basis of the study, the city chose the one place suitable for a golf course - a large tract of land on North Douglas. From the beginning, the CBJ had designated this land as a new growth area, an ideal place for the natural expansion of the community.
In 1994, the city solicited a "Request for Proposals" (RFP) seeking parties interested in building the golf course.
In 1996, Totem Creek, in partnership with the Kake Native Corporation, received the nod to pursue the project. Five years and $600,000 later, Totem Creek remains locked in a bureaucratic and political quagmire with the very governmental entity that asked it to develop the golf course.
The Planning Commission has endorsed the project, however, the planning staff has not taken the commission's lead. Instead, the staff has placed its own personal agendas ahead of what is best for the community. They have placed excessive and unreasonable demands on Totem Creek. In an effort to stop the project by attrition, they have imposed requirements and demands that are reminiscent of those levied on in-town mining.
The boosters of the Totem Creek project, John Barnett, Peter Metcalfe, David George, Tom Koester and many others have been responsible and responsive to every request for information related to the golf course proposal.
Numerous hearings and meetings have been held for nearly two decades. The community has clearly voiced its support. The Totem Creek group are your neighbors, they are trustworthy people with their hearts in the right place. We can't lose sight of the fact that the city asked for a golf course in the first place. The effort put forth by Totem Creek involved local citizens volunteering their time, not some large corporation from down south.
The golf course will prove to be an outstanding asset to this community. It will provide outdoor opportunities for our youth and another activity for tourists. It will add to the city's tax base. The golf course will provide a major venue for charitable fund-raising and add to Juneau's quality of life. The goodwill generated from this healthy pastime will far outweigh the necessary sacrifices.
We urge the Planning Department to follow the recommendation of the commissioners and expedite the approval of the Conditional Use Permit for the Totem Creek Golf Course.
Don Smith may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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