Planners need to listen more

Posted: Wednesday, October 09, 2002

This evening I attended the tail end of the Juneau Planning Commission public hearing to allow adjacent property owners to present their views on a proposed seafood processing plant to be build in Auke Nu Cove, immediately adjacent to the ferry terminal. Unfortunately, I had another meeting I had to attend earlier, so I missed much of the public input and had no opportunity to offer mine (I'm a resident within the affected area). What I did hear disturbed me a great deal.

As part of the package that the commission provided is a set of letters from a number of adjacent property owners. With one exception, they seem to be uniformly opposed to this project, for a number of different reasons but primarily for the potential effect on their property values. That would certainly be my concern. I know there are a number of area residents for which their property represents the major portion of their total assets. This concern was almost completely ignored by the Planning Commission in its final unanimous decision to go forward with this project.

One commission member did ask the Planning Commission staff what the anticipated impact on surrounding property values might be. The answer, to the best of my recollection, essentially said this question was not "studied," but the impact was expected to be minimal. The member then continued with his view that this was private property, the intended use was compatible with the area zoning, and the owner was entitled to use his property in this way.

I thought it was the role of the Planning Commission to protect the rights and property values of all the property owners, not just the owner of the property in question! I left the meeting with a distinct feeling of having witnessed a kangaroo court in operation. I don't have any strong feeling one way or the other about the project itself, or what its need and value to community at large might be, but I did think that the stated purpose of the public hearing, to collect input from the adjacent property owners, was a farce.

Maybe it's time for a new Planning Commission. It's certainly time for a new process for inputting community concerns to the commission.

Don Brand


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