Asphalt plan stirs worries

Developer trims plan for plant's life from years to months

Posted: Thursday, June 22, 2000

Plans for an asphalt plant off Montana Creek Road have changed.

Citing community response to his plan, Sandy Bicknell has gone from asking for a five-year permit to put an asphalt plant in the West Mendenhall Valley to one that will allow the operation for just a couple of months.

He'll put his revised proposal for a conditional use permit before the Juneau Planning Commission on July 11.

``We have reconsidered our application,'' Bicknell said. Along with city staff's conclusion that five years was too long, he said letters from the surrounding community influenced his decision.

The asphalt plant would be located across Montana Creek Road from the Montana Creek Subdivision. The subdivision is being developed by Montana Creek Development, which Bicknell owns along with his son. The 44-acre site is currently home to a gravel pit.

Bicknell said he wants to put the asphalt plant -- essentially a heater and a mixer -- next to the 28-lot third phase of the subdivision so he can pave the roads there this construction season.

One of the valley residents who wrote a letter to the city was Bob Spitzfaden, a member of the West Mendenhall Valley Neighborhood Association.

``It's a bad idea,'' he said. ``I don't see any reason we should be belching smoke in our area where people come to see the glacier.''

He said there's an asphalt supply in town, the spot is near Montana Creek and the only reason for the permit is to save Bicknell money. That's not a good enough reason, he said.

Another Spitzfaden concern is that once the asphalt plant is allowed, it will stay. Temporary projects tend to become permanent in Juneau, he said.

The reason city law allows for permits for things like asphalt plants in residential areas is to cut down how far trucks carrying asphalt and the like need to go, said Tim Maguire, the city planner overseeing the project.

Maguire said Bicknell's initial proposal probably went too far in asking for a five-year permit to make asphalt for several projects. City ordinance allows for such permits only for single-project uses, he said.

Bicknell said it's in his best interest to keep the area residential and to limit the time the plant is in operation because he's selling residential property there. He said he plans to move the asphalt plant into an industrial area after the paving is done this year.

The machinery will probably only mix and heat asphalt for a short period, he said, and most people in the area probably won't be bothered.

``We'll probably be paving the subdivision in August,'' he said. ``It would probably be less than a couple of weeks that the plant would be operating.''

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