Denial of road plan linked to public will

Planning commissioners say 2003 vote and aesthetic effects led to their 'no' vote

Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Discussing the proposed road out of town one last time before sending it to the Juneau Assembly, the Planning Commission passed a resolution Tuesday citing aesthetics and the will of the people among its reasons for giving the project a thumbs down.

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At its July 11 meeting, the commission turned down the Alaska Department of Transportation project to extend Glacier Highway for 23.4 miles within city boundaries, from Echo Cove to Sweeny Creek.

The Assembly still has the final say on whether the city supports the project. A special meeting regarding it has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday in the Assembly Chambers.

A memorandum drafting commissioners' findings on the issue was used as the basis for Tuesday's discussion. It stated that the commission did not support the project to extend the road because the application did not cover the entire project, it is inconsistent with a number of parts of the comprehensive plan, and it does not meet several land-use code provisions.

"I think we do need to be careful," Commissioner Nancy Waterman said about the wording that commissioners would put into their final document Tuesday.

Assembly Hearing

for Juneau Access highway

When: 9 a.m. Saturday

Where: Juneau Assembly Chambers.

How to testify: Only written testimony will be accepted. Comments are due by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.

The final resolution states that the plan is not consistent with Juneau's comprehensive plan because it is not "in accord with the values of its residents."

It also states that the project could have "significant negative impacts to the aesthetics along much of the road alignment, a value highly prized by the residents of Juneau."

It goes on to note the community voted in favor of improved ferry service in 2003, the waterways are important to salmon habitat, and the project will cause more harm than good to the public.

Commission Chairman Mark Pusich said the series of meetings on the Juneau access highway project were some of the most challenging the commission has had to deal with in years.

Pusich said "the findings are very, very important" and that is why they took so much time reviewing the matter.

Commissioner Marshall Kendziorek commended the work of the commission for working so well together on a difficult topic.

The special Assembly meeting has been scheduled for four hours on Saturday, although it might not last that long Assembly member Bob Doll said. There will be a presentation by the city staff, the state and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. There will be no public testimony and written testimony is being accepted through the end of the working day Wednesday.

Doll said the special meeting will probably not be the end of the road issue, regardless of the Assembly's conclusion.

"It's been around for a long time and, in fact, this will probably not be the end of it because if the governor chooses to exercise his option to declare it an urgent project on part of the state. He kind of has a trump card," he said.

Doll said he hopes the community will not jump to any conclusions and will listen carefully to the heart of the issue.

"I hope they'll listen with interest, and I hope they will pay attention to the views of everybody who will be there," he said. "That is how this process is supposed to work.

"The meeting will be aired on KTOO radio and people looking to attend the meeting might want to get there a little early, Doll said.

"We're expecting a packed house," he said.

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