Juneau Assembly members on Monday unanimously rejected a right-of-way appeal from Gastineau Avenue residents who say the land above South Franklin Street is unstable.
The Juneau Planning Commission this summer granted a request from Trucano Construction to move Rodenburg Way 15 to 25 feet up the hill. The undeveloped right-of-way is above South Franklin between the Carrol Way and Boroff Way stairs.
Under the name End of Gastineau Society, neighbors appealed the decision, arguing that the change would allow a larger development on South Franklin and that the unstable hillside threatens people and homes.
Additionally, the neighbors said a sign giving notice of the change was not visible, and the right-of-way is for public, not private, benefit.
Page Bridges, who lives above South Franklin near Carrol Way, said her home and a nearby apartment building were damaged during a construction project last winter. She told the Assembly that the End of Gastineau Society doesn't oppose development, but is worried about the stability of the hillside.
"We're surprised we're having this big project when the hill moved last winter," she said. "We're absolutely terrified."
Tim Maguire, a planner with city's Community Development Department who represented the Planning Commission at the hearing, said the commission's decision was supported by adequate evidence. A sign notifying residents of the change was posted near South Franklin, property owners within 500 feet were notified by mail, and notice was given in the newspaper, he added.
Monday's appeal dealt with the right-of-way move, not the development, Maguire said. For construction to occur in the lot below Rodenburg Way, the developers will need a separate conditional use permit and a hillside endorsement certifying that the development meets engineering standards and criteria, he said.
Murray Walsh, speaking for Trucano Construction, said the developers plan to keep a buffer of green space between a planned commercial and retail development on South Franklin and Gastineau Avenue. Trucano and contractor Steve Landvik are in the process of purchasing the property and have a permit request pending before the city, Walsh said.
Assembly member Dale Anderson, who was the presiding officer in the appeal, said the Planning Commission had substantial evidence to support its conclusions and there was adequate due process and public notice. The commission maintained the public benefit of the right-of-way by moving it instead of vacating it, he said.
Walsh said the developers anticipate future appeals from the End of Gastineau Society as they move forward with construction plans.
"It would be nice if instead of fighting over this, they'd take a deep breath and look at the engineering we're going to be doing," he said. "The new wall will be a massive thing, a combination of sheet pile and concrete that will make the whole hill more stable."
But Bridges said residents were given similar assurances when the hill cracked last winter and damaged nearby buildings. She said the End of Gastineau Society hopes to convince the Assembly to buy the property and turn it into a public garden and park. Neighbors also plan to gather support from other groups in town, she said.
"The only place we have to go now is the court of public opinion and we're going there," she said.
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