Planning Commission approves Statter Harbor project

Auke Towers sits adjacent to the planned improvements

Auke Bay Towers sits adjacent to the planned improvements. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

The Juneau Planning Commission has approved a new boat launch and parking facility at Statter Harbor.

Only one commissioner voted against the project Tuesday night; just the reverse of the May 14 meeting, when all but one member voted to deny a conditional use permit for the city facility.

The commission reconsidered that action and directed CBJ Docks and Harbors to work with the Statter Harbor neighborhood to fix some of the problems with the project. Even neighboring Auke Bay Towers condominium owners said the plan had significantly improved.

The commission placed six conditions on the permit, ranging from lighting to vegetation and green space to construction hours. While city code allows construction activities to take place until 10 p.m., crews will generally have to stop their work by 8 p.m.

A major question still looms: The impact on property value and harmony with the neighborhood.

Dan Bruce is attorney for the Auke Bay Towers Homeowners Association.

“It has been an interesting juxtaposition here that somehow the burden of establishing the impact has shifted from the applicant in this case to the residents in the neighborhood.”

The area has been zoned waterfront commercial for years, and homeowners said they knew that when they purchased their condo.

Property values, said CBJ Port Engineer Gary Gillette, are subjective. He rejected the homeowners’ comparison to other waterfront condos that are in areas zone residential and protected from commercial development.

Several condos will lose their water or wetlands view; instead, they’ll see a parking lot. But at the end of the three-hour public hearing, planning commissioners said a new and improved Statter Harbor will be an asset not only for the boating community, but the entire neighborhood.

Commissioner Dan Miller put it this way:

“I don’t believe that their property values are going to go down. I believe that their property values are not going to go up as much as everybody else that lives there.”

Nicole Grewe was the only commissioner to vote against the conditional use permit. She said she supports the boat launch ramp, but not the parking plan.

“And I definitely don’t think this is the highest best use of upland property. I think it’s the highest best use for the boating community but not the community as a whole.”

She called phase two of the Statter Harbor Master Plan “a parking lot with an elegant vegetation plan in selected areas.”

Port engineer Gillette was adamant that all 184 parking spaces for vehicles and boat trailers were needed. Grewe and Commissioner Nathan Bishop tried to amend the plan for more green space by taking away up to four parking spaces. The other commissioners agreed even four were too many to lose.

Planning for the three phases of Statter Harbor improvements began in 2005. The four and a half year Environmental Impact Study began in 2008 with about a dozen alternatives narrowed to the current project through a public process.

Some Auke Bay users who testified last night said congestion in the area, especially in the summer, borders on the dangerous. Most said the project couldn’t start fast enough.

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