Assembly nears OK for waterfront plan

Posted: Sunday, September 26, 2004

Some Juneau Assembly and committee members say the city should stall its waterfront planning process to give the cruise ship industry more time to comment about where docks should be built.

But after two years of work, the Assembly may adopt its 20-year development plan next month. At a meeting Friday the Assembly Committee of the Whole advanced a plan recommended by the Waterfront Development Committee, though the plan does not say whether or where to build more docks.

"I feel we shouldn't rush the plan," said Planning Commission Chairman Johan Dybdahl, also a member of the Waterfront Development Committee. "We have spent two years on the process. We need to wait for the comments from the cruise ship industries."

Among other things, the plan would promote a seawalk, mixed commercial and residential downtown development, and moving the city's maintenance workshop to create a park by the Douglas Bridge.

The original draft included a proposal to extend the city docks so two 960-foot-long cruise ships can berth. But the city Docks and Harbors Board said the proposal was not cost-effective and suggested that the committee build a finger dock perpendicular to Marine Park.

The waterfront committee then decided to conduct another community survey. It also asked the NorthWest Cruiseship Association for technical information on the feasibility of both designs.

"The Waterfront Development Committee didn't want to take these dock proposals through a public process or spend time analyzing the proposals without first knowing whether either was technically feasible," said Deputy Mayor Donna Pierce.

But the cruise ship association has been unable to respond because the hurricanes in Florida prevented cruise industry operational and technical experts from meeting. The industry has been busy wrapping up this season, too.

Without the cruise ship association's input, the Committee of the Whole decided to proceed with its Phase II waterfront plan, conducting a study to identify locations outside downtown Juneau to build cruise ship docks.

Assembly members rejected a waterfront committee recommendation to allow some buildings along Egan Drive to exceed 35 feet in height to prevent an unbroken line of rooftops.

The plan recommends that business owners between South Franklin Street and Gastineau Channel follow the Juneau Historic District standards specifying construction with certain materials and designs. Right now, only the area immediately adjacent to South Franklin Street must meet those building standards.

Assembly member Merrill Sanford opposed extending the area at the meeting.

"This is an inappropriate place to discuss the historic district regulations," Sanford said. "It should be looked at in-depth by the Planning Commission and the staff."

The Assembly will hold a special meeting on Oct. 7 so the public can comment on the plan.

•I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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