Office Depot hits a bump in the road

Planning Commission puts permit on hold pending traffic study

Posted: Wednesday, August 15, 2007

After some procedural wrangling Tuesday night, the Juneau Planning Commission unanimously voted to reconvene later to examine a conditional-use permit application for the proposed 21,155-square foot Office Depot store in Lemon Creek. Members cited traffic concerns.

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Office Depot's application is on hold pending a new traffic study on the Lemon Creek industrial area that is to be completed by the developer and addresses the concerns raised by the Planning Commission. Several members of the Planning Commission questioned the amount of traffic in the Lemon Creek industrial and commercial area due to the development of businesses such as Costco and Home Depot.

Planning Commission member Marshal Kendziorek said the latest traffic study of the area does not adequately address the present traffic trends. The Planning Commission needs to take a harder look at traffic in the area before it gives the green light for Office Depot to open a store in Lemon Creek, he said.

"We should have done a better job when Costco was built, and then Home Depot and all these other things happened, but we got to start sometime," Kendziorek said. "Putting it off until the last horse has left the barn is a little too late."

City Planner Greg Chaney said a conditional-use permit is required because the proposed site is in an industrial-zoned area.

Wayne Jensen of Jensen,Yorba, Lott Inc., the Juneau-based architecture firm designing the Office Depot project, said there is not a construction timeframe in place at this time.

"We're just going through the initial steps of getting the initial permits," he said. "There are several permits required after this one."

Jensen said he is not sure if the requirement of a new traffic study could possibly derail the project.

"I'll have to talk to the developer and see how they want to proceed," he said. "We still don't know yet."

A motion to continue the permit until a traffic study could be completed initially failed to receive enough votes. The discussion continued and several members of the Planning Commission said they could not support the conditional-use permit because it did not meet the public health and safety criteria required.

"I just feel as there is not enough information here for us to be making this decision at this time," Planning Commission member Nancy Waterman said.

"We want this project to proceed, and it could proceed if we were to continue and get the information," Kendziorek said.

After it appeared the conditional-use permit application would be denied because of the traffic concerns, potentially resulting in the project being derailed permanently, another motion was brought before the commission to consider continuing the application until a traffic study could be completed. This time the motion passed.

Planning Commission member Dan Bruce said he is concerned about the precedent being set by requiring Office Depot to conduct a traffic study. He said he does not support making each new business that comes into the area do its own traffic study.

"I think we are getting on a slippery slope," he said.

Dale Pernula, director of the Community Development Department, said the engineering department is presently considering plans for an alternate route to the Lemon Creek industrial and commercial area. Anka Street is presently the lone access road into the area off Glacier Highway.

Bruce said the alternative access points would have impacts on residents and the environment and would come with a large price tag to construct such a project.

"I don't think that adding this store is going to result in a massive increase in traffic flow," he said.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at 523-2269 or

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