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City hears truck scale appeal

Hood says decision to grant variance to Secon set bad precedent

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Concerned citizen Dixie Hood said the city set a bad precedent when it allowed a truck scale to continue operating that was built without the proper permits and within the required 50-foot setback of a fish-rearing stream.

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Hood presented her appeal Monday night of an "after the fact" variance that was granted by the Juneau Board of Adjustment to the construction company Secon, Inc. for its truck scale on Anka Street. There was a lack of due process in granting the variance, she said.

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"As a citizen I don't like what I see and it doesn't represent integrity in terms of city government," Hood said.

A decision on the appeal had not been issued as of press time.

John Logsdon, operations manager for Secon, said the city's required 50-foot setback from streams is important and the company did not intentionally build within 50 feet of Lemon Creek.

"We aren't a bunch of wild gangsters running around hoping that we would get away with it," he said. "It just happened."

Logsdon said the company built the nearly $70,000 truck scale to use for the $27.5 million Sunny Point Intersection Project on Egan Drive. When contacted by the city that it did not have the proper permits in place, Secon quickly tried to correct the situation, he said.

"We have from the start tried to comply," Logsdon said. "We haven't tried to hide or do anything underhanded."

The scale is used to ensure the weight of trucks bringing blasted rock and fill to the construction site does not exceed regulations.

The "after the fact" variance was granted by the Juneau Board of Adjustment at the May 22 Planning Commission. The variance included 12 conditions of approval such as planting trees and addressing water runoff.

"There was a lot of mitigation that was included in the conditions of the variance," Community Development Department Director Dale Pernula said.

On Monday night, Hood said she filed the appeal because she did not believe a variance was warranted because the project did not satisfy all the criteria used to make the decision. She specifically disagreed with the Board's finding that moving the scale would be "unnecessarily burdensome" or expensive.

Hood said it sets a bad precedent to allow a company to violate the city's Land Use Code and then after it is completed to ask for a variance. Proper permits for the project should have been in place prior to the truck scale being built, she said. Saying that it is too expensive to move the scale after it was completed is not a good excuse, Hood said.

"I would like the Assembly to say 'when a law is passed we mean it,'" she said. "I think respect for the law is critical."

Hood said the Land Use Code and the Comprehensive Plan are in place for a reason.

"It's important to have that as a guide to development and growth in our community," she said.

Logsdon said moving the truck scale could have created traffic woes and caused safety concerns by having to use another scale. It would also have been expensive to pay an individual fee for each of the 27,500 truckloads the company has used in the Sunny Point project this year, potentially costing upwards of $1 million.

City planner Greg Chaney said Secon's filing for the variance actually helped the area because the mitigation led to upgrades.

"This is one of the best buffered sites on Lemon Creek right now, as a result of the variance," he said.

"I think that this particular whole thing is a pretty good example of how things can be worked out when you do have a tight time schedule," Logsdon said.

Hood said she hopes other citizens will have the courage to stand up to protect the public process and the environment.

"Not only value what we have here but be willing to take risks to protect it," she said.

There was no public comment period Monday night. Both parties would be allowed to contest any decision, and the issue is expected to be presented at a future Assembly meeting for final approval.

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



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