City to move on land deal for parking garage

Split Assembly votes to approve ordinance for lease agreement

Posted: Tuesday, September 09, 2008

City Manager Rod Swope received official approval Monday to reach a deal with the state of Alaska on land the state owns at Telephone Hill, where the city plans to build a parking project.

Assembly members in a split vote approved an ordinance allowing Swope to accept a lease agreement and pursue a transfer of the land located downtown at the corner of Egan Drive and Main Street.

Swope has been working on the land deal for several months, and the Juneau Assembly held two private meetings last month to be briefed on negotiations.

Monday's meeting offered an opportunity for the public to comment on the land negotiations, and downtown resident Liz Dodd took her turn to encourage the Assembly to halt the project.

"It's like somebody's been taken by an addiction. People who want it keep barreling ahead," said Dodd, noting that the project's estimated cost has risen. "It's gone so far beyond rational planning ... it's time to draw a line in the sand."

Three residents of Dixon Street and longtime project opponent Dixie Hood also spoke in opposition. They criticized the project for its size, price and design, adding that more parking downtown isn't needed.

The lease will allow the city to begin work on the garage, currently estimated to cost $14 million. The state also wants to transfer the land to the city in exchange for forgiveness of an old debt associated with the property.

Opponents said the land - estimated to be worth $6.5 million - will increase the cost of the project to $20 million.

Voters approved $7.7 million in 2005 to pay for part of the project, with about $3 million in grant funds to support an estimated $10 million price tag at the time.

Under rising construction costs, the city appropriated $1.5 million from the general fund, but the financial plan still falls short.

Assembly members Jonathan Anderson, Jeff Bush, Sara Chambers and Bob Doll voted against the resolution.

Others on the board spoke in favor of the project, with some saying the pubic has demonstrated a desire to have more parking downtown.

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