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Assembly approves North Douglas sewer Local Improvement District

Property owners will pay portion of project's cost

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Juneau Assembly approved an ordinance at its regular meeting Monday night creating a Local Improvement District to help fund the expansion of the city sewer to North Douglas.

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The creation of the LID means the 106 property owners within the set boundaries will pay a portion of the cost associated with connecting North Douglas to the city's sewer system. Assessed costs range from $6,500 for a single-family home, to as much as $130,000 for the largest parcel of land.

The bidding for the sewer expansion project could take place as early as this winter, city officials said.

Several property owners testified before the Assembly prior to its decision.

Phillip Gray said he is opposed to the project because of the major financial hardships the assessment fees will place on property owners. The $6,500 single-family home assessment fee and associated connection fees will be difficult for some property owners, he said, especially those living off Social Security.

"That's a lot of money to come up with," Gray said.

There are quite a few retired people residing in North Douglas, he said.

"My main concern is what it costs," Gray said.

Craig Mapes said he supports the project but is opposed to the assessment method the city used to generate the fees property owners will have to incur. Single-family homeowners have very little to gain by the LID process, while landowners with large parcels have everything to gain, he said.

"I believe it is a matter of fairness," Mapes said.

Land developers will be able to pass off much of the cost to future homebuyers, while those with existing homes will have to bear the burden of the assessment, he said.

"He passes every cent onto the person who buys that property ... I can't do that," Mapes said.

With the potential for hundreds of new homes to be developed on North Douglas once sewer infrastructure is in place, Mapes said there needs to be a master plan put in place to address such issues as traffic flow and watershed issues.

"There are just some real big issues that need to be addressed before development does occur," he said.

Brad Fluetsch testified in favor of the LID creation and said that people living on North Douglas have wanted sewer access since at least 1992, when he moved to the neighborhood. He said most property owners he has spoken with are in favor of the project.

"We want the sewage off the beach and out of the ditch," Fluetsch said.

Addressing people living within the LID that are worried about having to pay thousands of dollars for sewers, Fluetsch said the costs can be financed over a 10-year period. By comparison, that is cheaper than having to replace a new septic system, he said.

"It is a fraction of the cost of putting in a new septic system," Fluetsch said. "It's cheap by comparison. It's good for the environment."

Ronald Clarke also said he likes the idea of expanding the city sewer to North Douglas, but said he has concerns about the assessment method used by the city.

Clarke said he will have to pay upward of $20,000 for his two properties to connect to the system and decommission his septic system. Although he and his wife have no plans to ever develop the properties, one of which has a stream running through it, the city has still assessed their property for the potential to develop.

"All I want to do is live my life in peace and not go broke in the process," Clarke said.

Deputy Engineering Director Rorie Watt said property owners can contest the assessments until the LID is closed out, which will happen after construction of the project is complete.

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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