Only 1 shows up for new school debate

Planners look at traffic, security, landscaping for Valley high facility

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2003

The lone person who showed up to comment Wednesday night about plans for a new high school in his Mendenhall Valley neighborhood had plenty to say to city staff and people working on the project.

Rick Abbott pointed to his house in a cardboard model representing the planned Dimond Park school and the surrounding neighborhood. He raised questions about traffic, trees and the location of the school's fence.

"I'm not against the school," Abbott said, during the meeting at Riverside Elementary School. "I think we need it. But I see the potential for the degradation of my property values."

He's also concerned for traffic safety, particularly for pedestrians in a part of Juneau where a child was killed riding his bike to school this fall, he said.

Mark Pusich of R&M Engineering said traffic certainly will increase. He said the main entrance would be from Riverwood Drive. Traffic signals would be recommended at Riverside Drive, Riverwood Drive and Stephen Richards Memorial Parkway.

Intersection restructuring and safety enhancements also would be considered. Road beacons could alert motorists to people in the roadway, although there are questions whether they would function on streets with ice and snow.

The landscape plans would not clear the adjoining forest, said representatives of the firm Landscape Alaska. Rather, the forest would be trimmed for safety and liability reasons, as well as security concerns that public buildings must address since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

With the forest floor cleared and lower branches trimmed, the woods would change from "old, dark forest," David Lendrum said.

"To a bright park forest," Margaret Tharp said, completing his sentence.

Abbott said he would prefer to see the surrounding fence closer to the school. "I want to keep the kids away from my property," he said.

Catherine Fritz of the city engineering department said she understands his concerns for his use of his property. She couldn't promise any compromises, but said she could direct residents to the people who make the decisions.

The Juneau Planning Commission is scheduled to discuss the conditional-use permit for the school Tuesday night, she said. Action to place conditions on the development could come in January.

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