The Juneau Planning Commission approved conditional use permits for the Steamship Wharf and Marine Park project Tuesday night despite a few objections.
Conditions require the city to:
Consider using curbside space for small commercial vehicles or vehicle parking when the plaza is open for use.
Monitor activity at the Admiral Way crosswalk and consider mitigating actions if inbound traffic is backed up beyond Willoughby Avenue.
Treat surface water runoff through an oil/water separator.
Keep disturbance of tidelands to a minimum.
In a 5-1 vote, the commission allowed the installation of a deck between the existing dock and the sidewalk along Marine Way downtown.
The commission also approved a permit to expand Marine Park by 6,000 square feet and expand a bus-loading area that can be used as a pedestrian plaza at times. And the panel's actions allow the work to be done in a designated landslide hazard zone.
The Juneau Assembly earlier this year approved a proposal to add 21,000 square feet to the Marine Park-Steamship Wharf area. The city likely would award a bid in September, with project completion scheduled for July 1 of next year.
Cruise lines have agreed to pay for 75 percent of the $5.4 million construction cost through a new port development fee, with the city picking up the rest. City planner Teri Camery, who spoke at the Planning Commission meeting as a private citizen, said she recommended having a completed waterfront plan before individual projects are approved.
Commissioner Marshal Kendziorek, who voted against permitting the project, agreed.
"My problem isn't so much with the project as with the process," said Kendziorek during the commission meeting. "This project was done at the request of the Assembly, who said in essence, 'This is what we want to do. Figure out how to make it work,' without any kind of comprehensive plan in place for waterfront development. That's not good policy, and it's not good process, and it's not the way we should do things."
Commissioner Merrill Sanford supported the project and said it would "take care of an unsightly area in the community."
Commissioner Mike Bavard agreed.
"This thing has been through a significant public process and we've gotten as much input as we can from the public," said Bavard. "We've already come a long way to improve the downtown from where it was a few years ago. A lot of the downtown areas have changed and are significantly cleaned up and look good. ... This is one area where there is a gap and this (project) will help that area a lot."
But the question of what hours the bus -staging area will be open to the public and closed to commercial traffic remains unanswered.
The commission included a condition for the permits that directs the city Docks and Harbors Board to develop operational guidelines. The condition says the plan should include hours the area is open to the public and closed to commercial traffic, provisions regulating bus idling and engine shutoff during passenger staging, and other staging protocols.
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Empire reporter Joanna Markell contributed to this report.