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City candidates mull over golf course proposal, costs

Posted: Sunday, September 30, 2001

While candidates for Juneau Assembly say a golf course in Juneau is a good project, none want to see the city help pay for it.

Totem Creek Inc. has a conditional use permit request pending before the Juneau Planning Commission for an 18-hole golf course in West Douglas, past the current end of North Douglas Highway. The local nonprofit group applied for a permit in September 1997 and has been reworking plans to address environmental concerns.

District 1 candidate and real estate broker Jeannie Johnson said she generally supports a golf course in the area. She doesn't support city subsidies for private industry, but emphasized that the project is an opportunity to capture revenue and provide recreation.

"This to me is an evolving process of learning about things. I support the concept. I know there have been studies done for a long time," she said.

Retired teacher, salesman and District 1 candidate Tony Reiger also approves of the golf course. If it runs into financial difficulties, subsidies would be one of the last things he would want to look at, he said.

"I see it as part of a direction we need to seriously take a look at. The golf course is just one increment in development of the whole area on North Douglas," he said. The area could support recreation, commercial development and a deep-water port, he said.

District 2 candidate Dixie Hood, a therapist and mediator, said she thinks the golf course is a good project if criteria are met.

"It sounds like it could well meet most of the environmental concerns. That would be my high priority," she said. "There are a lot of questions of whether it is going to be a money-making operation in terms of maintaining itself."

Hood said if short-term financial support is needed, it would seem like a reasonable thing to consider, but the city shouldn't subsidize the project.

Randy Wanamaker, a District 2 candidate and an environmental assessor, has advocated for improvements to the city's project review process. In general, proposals should have a quick and fair review, he said. He said he supports the city's decision to build a golf course.

"I think the city should work with the agencies and interest groups, the neighborhood groups that are concerned about various issues ... and say, 'here are the things we're concerned about' in a comprehensive way and arrive at a decision as soon as possible," he said.

As for subsidizing the golf course, Wanamaker said he thinks private enterprise should pay its own way.

Clancy DeSmet, a project review coordinator with the Alaska Coastal Management Program and a District 2 candidate, said he supports the golf course. The project could help bring revenue to the community, he said.

"I think that the environmental regulations are in place and I think that people can comment. We can make it a good process and can make it a golf course that is environmentally friendly as possible," he said.

DeSmet said he wouldn't support government subsidies for the golf course.

Chuck Collins, a small business owner who is running for the areawide seat, said government likes to study things and study them again, something he disagrees with.

"I think the city should get out of the way and let business do business," he said. "I don't see how the city can be any harder on it."

Collins said he's not in favor of offering the golf course financial support in the same way it does with Eaglecrest.

"My handicap is going way up, so I'd love to see a golf course," he said.

At a forum last Monday, areawide incumbent candidate Jim Powell said the golf course has faced a state and federal review and is now before the Planning Commission. He said he supports that process.

"I support the golf course. They've done a good job. We'll have the most environmentally sensitive golf course in the area," he said.

Powell said he is not aware of any additional studies that need to be done. The project is going through a permit process that might require information from the developers, he said.

"No more study is needed," he said. "The real question is when is the conditional use permit going to be completed. Now it's in the city's court and has been in the city's court for some time. We need to finish it and approve it, get it out."

Powell said he's not enthusiastic about city subsidies to finance golf course operations.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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