Assembly adopts tourism policies

Move marks year of work on long-range management plan

Posted: Tuesday, August 06, 2002

The Juneau Assembly put four pages of tourism policies into effect Monday after a debate over industry limits and growth.

The move marked the near-end of more than a year of work on a long-range tourism management plan for Juneau. The Assembly still is accepting public input on the makeup of a new committee, tentatively called the Juneau Tourism Partnership, that will implement the plan.

The policies call on the city to support a collaborative partnership between community members and the local tourism industry. The policies also would promote waterfront revitalization, improve the flow of traffic downtown, and encourage niche tours.

Assembly members unanimously adopted the policies after a discussion about flightseeing and so-called "safety valves," or strategies to manage tourism's impacts and protect business.

Much of the debate centered on a sentence that said the city supports the growth of flightseeing businesses. Assembly member Frankie Pillifant asked her colleagues to change the wording to say the city "supports our flightseeing businesses."

Assembly member Dale Anderson objected to the change as anti-growth.

"I sincerely hope this body does not come forward and say we do not support growth," he said. "This town has a stigma of curbing business, and across the state we're being looked at very closely while we're fighting the capital-move issue."

Assembly member Jim Powell responded that Juneau has been very supportive of the tourism industry over the years.

"I don't think we're speaking against growth," he said. "We're trying to run a balancing act to have a quality experience and manage it so it doesn't come across as Tijuana in a few years. So it comes across as a good, Alaskan quality experience."

Pillifant said the change would provide more balance in the document and improve trust. It was unfair and disingenuous to characterize the amendment as "anti-growth," she said.

The change failed on a 5-4 vote with Anderson, Ken Koelsch, Randy Wanamaker, Don Etheridge and Jeannie Johnson voting no. Pillifant, Powell, Marc Wheeler and Mayor Sally Smith voted yes.

Pillifant also suggested the Assembly change wording so the city was committed to "resolving" noise impacts instead of "addressing" them. That amendment was approved unanimously.

Karla Hart, a Juneau resident who has followed the tourism plan discussion, told the Assembly the policies don't give community members assurance that flightseeing noise or new destination resort lodges will be controlled.

"It basically just expands and promotes opportunities for tourism without giving any comfort or boundaries for the community," she said.

On a 5-4 vote, the Assembly added wording to develop strategies for safety valves by Dec. 31, 2003, if tourism growth or impacts exceed acceptable levels. Wheeler said the change would give the city time to put strategies in place by the 2004 tourism season.

Pillifant, Powell, Wheeler, Smith and Johnson voted yes. Koelsch, Wanamaker, Anderson and Etheridge voted no.

The tourism plan will be forwarded to the Juneau Tourism Partnership as a separate reference tool, Smith said. In a case in which the Assembly's policies and the tourism plan conflict, the policies will prevail, Interim City Manager John MacKinnon said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at

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