City considers halt to waterfront construction

Moratorium could stretch from bridge to rock dump

Posted: Tuesday, December 09, 2003

The Juneau Assembly proposed Monday night to allow no waterfront construction until the city's development plan is finalized.

Some members of the Assembly want a moratorium on building projects from the Douglas bridge to the rock dump. Any building before the plan is complete could interfere with the waterfront plan, Assembly members said.

The construction industry is alarmed by the Assembly's proposal, said Sandy Bicknell, owner of Bicknell Inc., Montana Creek Development and Southeast Paving.

"What do they think is going to happen if they decide to do this?" Bicknell said in an interview earlier Monday.

Monday night, Assembly members debated how the ordinance would be reviewed and what areas would be affected. Members Marc Wheeler and Randy Wanamaker negotiated on having the Planning Commission and the Assembly's Committee of the Whole review the proposed ordinance. A public hearing would be set for January.

Assembly members also debated the geographic area of the proposed moratorium area. Some members said the area was supposed to encompass only the waterfront, yet the language of the proposed ordinance involved all of Juneau. City Manager Rod Swope explained the ordinance was intended for the waterfront area.

A moratorium on building will not only hurt construction businesses directly but have a domino effect on building supply companies, Bicknell said. He has about 100 employees, but another 400 rely on his business, not including the other contractors in town, he said. Bicknell also suggested a moratorium would decrease the workload of the city engineering and building departments, yet those employees would still be paid their regular salaries.

Assembly members Jeannie Johnson and Merrill Sanford are opposed to a moratorium. Johnson, a professional realtor, favors property owners' rights to build, she said.

A moratorium is a bad way to do business, Sanford said.

"If a person buys property and government institutes a moratorium, it is not a good, stabilizing way to do things," Sanford said.

Senior Assembly member Jim Powell favors a moratorium because he does not want construction interfering with a waterfront plan, he said. The waterfront area will be a significant centerpiece of downtown and serve as a welcoming area for visitors, he said.

A moratorium will allow the Assembly to preserve its options for future building in the waterfront area, Wheeler said.

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