After hearing residents' concerns, the Juneau Planning Commission agreed Tuesday to slow down development of the new subdivision slated for Lena Point.
The fear that raw sewage would run alongside homes and into nearby water sources topped the concerns aired by nearly 50 residents of the 85-home Lena Point subdivision at a commission Committee of the Whole meeting.
When residents finished speaking, nearly all commissioners agreed that too many unanswered questions exist to move the project forward.
"These are some good comments and I'm wondering why we are moving so fast on this project when we have asked for much, much more from other developers," said Chairman Johan Dybdahl.
"It is not unreasonable to ask us and have us give an idea of what this project is going to look like. This needs another Committee of the Whole meeting and more public comment before it moves again."
Residents also were concerned the city was cutting corners in developing the project, didn't have a comprehensive plan for development at Lena Point, and the project would harm wildlife and wetlands.
The proposed 45-home subdivision is slated to be built in phases on 200 acres of city-owned land near Lena Loop Road and South Lena Loop Road.
But several residents said they were worried that the proposed sewage system would not accommodate the 115 homes possible on the city's land.
"Lena Point has been targeted as an area for growth," said Lena Point resident Carl Dierking. "You have 45 homes on this system right now, but the lots could be developed for up to 115 homes. Is all of this going to go down right next to my house and allowed to wash up on our beach? Do you really think that a sewage outfall right by my house isn't going to affect my lot or my property value?
"We need to see a comprehensive plan of how this area is going to be developed."
Malcolm Menzies, an engineering consultant with R&M Engineering, said the proposed sewer system is used widely in Ketchikan and was put into the Bay View subdivision past Outer Point and Fish Creek.
"There wouldn't be any contaminants on the beach at Lena," he said.
The city proposed a two-prong disinfecting system, Menzies said. Solids would be collected in 800- to 1,000-gallon tanks, and air would be forced into the tanks, disinfecting the waste, Menzies said.
The treated sewage then would pass by a series of ultraviolet lights, which further treat the effluent. What is left would be discharged at South Lena Point 14 feet below the water surface, Menzies said.
City Planner Cynthia Johnson said maintenance most likely would be taken care of by sewage contractors through the city Public Works Department.
Commissioner Marshal Kend-ziorek pointed out, and Menzies agreed, that under that maintenance schedule the system could fail and the problem could go uncorrected for up to two years, the interval when sewer systems routinely are checked.
Menzies also said it's possible the sewage system could contaminate ground water because of the high ground water table in the area.
Residents accused the city of not having a suitable plan for sewage or future development for the area, but putting the project on a fast-track to approval anyway.
"The city staff has been given carte blanche to do what they want out there without any of the conditions or regulations you would place on a private developer," said Lena Point resident Brett Baxter.
"We want to see the city do a complete comprehensive plan, a bear study, a deer study - there was another live eagle nest found last week, so a study should be done - just like everyone else.
"We don't deny that it is your land and you certainly have a right to develop it. But I would encourage you to hold yourselves to the same standards you would anyone else."