City buys valley acreage possibly for new library

Committee opts against purchasing property in Auke Bay

Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2001

The city will buy 2.6 acres of land in the Mendenhall Valley, but whether a new library is built on the site remains under discussion.

Juneau Assembly members on Monday voted 5-3 to not reconsider the land purchase near Faith Lutheran Church, thus allowing the sale to occur.

Ken Koelsch, Don Etheridge and John MacKinnon voted in favor of reconsidering a vote two weeks ago to buy the land. Cathy Mu-oz, Frankie Pillifant, Jim Powell, Marc Wheeler and Sally Smith voted against reconsideration. Dale Anderson was absent.

The vote took place without debate before new Assembly members Jeannie Johnson and Randy Wanamaker were sworn in.

The $430,000 land purchase is for a new library or other public purpose. After the meeting, new Deputy Mayor Koelsch said he plans to schedule a discussion about the possibility of including the library in plans for Dimond Park, where a new high school is expected to be located.

"Dimond Park makes a lot of sense to me. The utilities are there and parking will be there. The next direction will be a rec center and swimming pool in the valley, and if we can somehow bring together the synergy of adding a library to that complex, we could probably have a library years sooner," he said.

A new Valley library was removed from the Dimond Park Master Plan in 1999 because of space constraints. Smith said the city will need to contend with a "stump dump" at Dimond Park.

"I think it was important to have a good, flat piece of property out in that area where we seem to be getting a Valley center established," she said of the Faith Lutheran site.

Pillifant said she was comfortable with the Faith Lutheran land purchase because it may be needed for another public purpose. As an example, the city had trouble finding land for a new police station, she said.

"There has definitely been a need demonstrated for an improved (library) facility, but what the best place is for that facility hasn't really been looked at in depth," she said.

Wheeler, who is the chairman of the Lands Committee, agreed that more discussion about the library site is needed. "It could have benefits; it could have some drawbacks too," he said of Dimond Park. "We need to look at it more closely."

The current Valley library is in leased space at the Mendenhall Center. Library Director Carol McCabe said she is pleased the city has the Faith Lutheran site as a option. The site is affordable, centrally located and visible, she said.

"The voters are the ones who will make the decision of where, how big and when," she said.

Meanwhile, the library is looking at short-term possibilities for more space for kids, books and seating in the Valley, she said. The library's two-and-a-half-year lease with the Mendenhall Center is up in July, she said.

In other action Monday, the Assembly Lands Committee decided not to purchase 0.3 acres of land in Auke Bay for a waterfront park. Approving a motion from Assembly member Jim Powell, the committee asked that the city's lands department pursue other options to get the land, such as a land trade.

"I'm supportive of acquiring the land, but because of the lands fund, we're just real tight," Powell said.

With the valley land purchase moving forward, $981,000 remains in the city's lands fund. About $900,000 will be needed for water, sewer and communications improvements at Lena Point, where the city wants to sell between 35 and 40 house lots, according to city Lands Manager Steve Gilbertson.

A group of Juneau brokers presented a resolution to the Assembly on Monday that called for a immediate moratorium on land purchases until a comprehensive review of city land holdings and a land disposal plan are implemented. The resolution also asks the Assembly to prioritize land needs for public buildings.

Wheeler said the city is taking a comprehensive look at its land holdings.

"I think we have to look at the big picture," he said. "We are going to focus more this year on land disposal, developing large tracts at Lena Point and the Auke Rec bypass."

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