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Neighbors say proposed condos pose threat to safety

Planning Commission to hear from transportation officials before making a decision on Douglas project

Posted: Wednesday, December 10, 2003

A narrow, hilly, icy Douglas Island road is no place to put condominiums, Lawson Creek neighbors told the Juneau Planning Commission on Tuesday night.

Commissioners said they shared the safety concerns and asked to have input from the Alaska Department of Transportation available when the commission takes up the North Point Condominium project again Dec. 23. The commission hadn't been scheduled to meet two days before Christmas, but most members said they would be able to attend the meeting.

The proposed project, 12 two-bedroom condominium units in two buildings, has its parking access planned from Old Lawson Road.

"Between two blind corners," said Tisa Becker, her voice trembling as she addressed the commission.

She said she was concerned for the safety of children in the neighborhood. She said she drives a four-wheel drive vehicle and has trouble getting up the hilly road without a running start.

Juneau planner Nathan Bishop told commissioners that parts of the road were publicly owned and other parts were under public control. The project driveway permit is the responsibility of DOT, which is expected to rule on the issue within a few days.

"We have no problem trying to maintain the road," said Terry Johnson, speaking for the property's owner, David Johnson, president of the applicant, P&J Industries.

Terry Johnson said access problems have limited what the owners have been able to plan for the property. Plans to build two or three houses aren't possible, he noted, because that would comprise a subdivision. And the property doesn't have the access to a city- or state-maintained road that a subdivision would require.

"The property is a very difficult property," he said.

Frances Still, who lives at the end of the road, said she could only see the road problem getting worse with an increase in traffic.

"If you don't keep moving, you don't make the top," said Bill Zeman, another resident of the area.

Becker said the ice builds up during the winter. And during the summer, children are riding their bikes up and down the hill.

"We've got a bad road now," Commissioner Mike Bavard said, adding that the new project wouldn't help the problem.

In addition to the road, commissioners said they had concerns with drainage issues brought up by the neighbors.

Commissioner Jim Scholz asked how drainage would be improved by developing and paving the property.

Civil engineer Bruce Berryhill, working with the applicant, said the plan is to deepen and widen an existing ditch on the property, making it less likely to "freeze up and glacier out onto the road."

Commissioner Mark Pusich said he was impressed with the testimony from residents and said he wanted a report from DOT on the safety issues Dec. 23.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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