Businessman Jerry Reinwand has asked the Juneau Assembly to reconsider some parking and setback variances recently granted to Timberwolf Ventures, a nearby downtown competitor.
The Juneau Planning Commission should recommend zoning changes and a parking plan to the assembly, rather than deal with variance requests in an inconsistent, piecemeal way, said Reinwand, a lobbyist whose family owns the Alaska Peddler gift shop next to two proposed buildings.
Timberwolf plans to put up the tourist-oriented retail buildings on its land between the Timberwolf and Alaska Peddler gift shops on South Franklin Street.
Under the variances granted by the Juneau Planning Commission, Timberwolf can build to the lot lines (except for a second story next to some apartments), and offer a parking shuttle from its warehouse off Thane Road. The company said it will require its employees to use the shuttle.
Timberwolf Ventures is owned by Michael Tripp, Tamala Booton and Audrey Acord, according to state records. It owns two gift shops downtown.
Reinwand said he didn't think the variances have given a competitor an unfair advantage. Timberwolf's current shops actually have helped his own store by generating foot traffic in the area, he said.
But Reinwand said he's appealing the variances because he thinks they're a poor way to decide zoning issues.
Murray Walsh, a consultant to Timberwolf's project, said he agrees the city needs to come up with a parking solution downtown. But, he said, property owners and developers have to move ahead and not wait for the city to solve the problem.
In a memo to the assembly, Reinwand outlined his objections to the variances. He said the city code prohibits parking and setback variances, and Timberwolf's parking plan won't work and can't be enforced.
Reinwand also said the applications and public notices weren't clear that both lots are owned by Timberwolf. He believes the company didn't need the variances to develop the parcels as one site.
He also said it's not the city's role to waive setback and parking requirements ``simply to justify the purchase price that a private developer has paid for two parcels of expensive land.''
Walsh, who worked for 12 years in Juneau's Community Development Department, said setback and parking variances are common.
The city should consider economics in deciding whether a variance request is reasonable, Walsh said. The lots wouldn't be profitable to develop, even as one site, without the setback and parking variances, he added.
The assembly has a month to decide whether the city should hear Reinwand's formal appeal, which could be before the assembly or a hearing officer. Unless the assembly says otherwise, Timberwolf can start building its proposed stores, but at its own risk.
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