Assembly passes rezone, Freer asks for reconsideration

The Juneau Assembly on Monday narrowly voted to approve a controversial request to rezone a property in the Mendenhall Valley from D-10 Residential to Light Commercial. But Assemblyman Peter Freer asked for reconsideration, so the issue will be back before the assembly at its next regular meeting.

The vote to rezone was 5 to 4, with Freer in the minority. He says he’s concerned that the zone change goes against the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which calls for the property to be zoned medium density residential, and thinks the assembly could benefit from a more thorough discussion of the differences between the MDR and Light Commercial zones.

CBJ Community Development Director Dale Pernula (left) explains zoning concepts to the Juneau Assembly on Monday. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

“As the zoning progresses upward if you will from D-10 through D-15, D-18 and Light Commercial the intensity of uses that can occur on the property also increases. And some uses may not require a review before the Planning Commission, but may be simply approved as building permits – for example, offices of up to 10-thousand square feet,” Freer says.

Assembly member Mary Becker made an attempt to amend the ordinance so the property would be rezoned D-18 – still medium density residential, but with more allowable uses than D-10. But her amendment was voted down.

The 2.68 acre property in question is on Atlin Drive where it intersects with Mendenhall Loop Road. Developer Richard Harris bought it in 2010 from the US Forest Service. The northeast corner is bordered by Duck Creek Pond, making 40 percent of the property unusable due to required setbacks. Harris hasn’t said what he intends to build on the parcel, but says he’ll have more opportunity to do something nice for the neighborhood with a Light Commercial zone.

“There is no plan at all. At this point we know that we can build 20 apartments. But we don’t want to spend money to design 20 apartments if there’s something bigger and better that can be done here,” said Harris. “And not necessarily bigger, but mostly better. It’s going to be the face of the community. I personally would not be proud to build 20 apartments right there. I think it’s a waste.”

Developer Richard Harris wants to rezone his 2.68 acre lot in the Mendenhall Valley from Medium Density Residential to Light Commercial. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

Homeowners on Atlin and nearby Teslin Street are against the rezone. They say Harris ought to submit a plan before receiving a Light Commercial designation. The city’s Planning Commission also recommended against the change at the urging of the CBJ Community Development Department.

Reconsideration of the assembly’s vote will occur at its next regular meeting, scheduled for August 22nd.