Mayor proclaims June LGBT celebration month

At its meeting Monday night, the Juneau Assembly recognized the LGBT community, approved a major rezoning of Pederson Hill, failed to approve a smaller one on an Atlin Drive lot and doubled its filing fees for appeals.

Supporters pose with Mayor Merrill Sanford after he read a proclamation declaring June 2014 as Juneau Pride 2014. It's a celebration of LGBT people and their contributions. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Supporters pose with Mayor Merrill Sanford after he read a proclamation declaring June 2014 as Juneau Pride 2014. It’s a celebration of LGBT people and their contributions. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Mayor Merrill Sanford got a little choked up Monday night proclaiming this month Juneau Pride 2014. It’s a celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their contributions.

With a microphone and proclamation in hand, and a quaver in his voice, he read: “On behalf of the City and Borough Assembly, (I) do hereby proclaim June 2014 as Juneau Pride 2014 and encourage the Juneau community to celebrate the diversity of Alaskans.”

Local LGBT groups plan to hold a week of cultural events beginning next Monday.

Pederson Hill rezoned

The Assembly unanimously approved a major rezoning of 152 acres of city-owned land near Auke Lake that could, eventually, lead to hundreds of new homes. The rezoning of Pederson Hill is about a tenfold increase in density. Officials hope it will relieve some of the demand and high costs in Juneau’s tight housing market.

Nearby resident Dave Hanna was the only person to speak during the public hearing before the vote. He said he supported the change.

“I say it with kind of the heavy heart, because I used to roam around in those woods when I was a kid, and, you know, you always hate to see those places go away, so to speak,” Hanna said. “But on the other hand, this does serve a need that the community has.”

Absence stalls Atlin Drive rezone

Assemblyman Jerry Nankervis’ absence from Monday’s meeting meant a controversial rezoning of a 2-acre lot on Atlin Drive was short a vote.

Owner Richard Harris wants the property rezoned from a residential designation to light industrial, which would give him more flexibility. He has not disclosed his plans for the property.

The lot has been through more than three years of vetting and appeals through the Planing Commission and Assembly. The Planning Commission denied the rezoning, but the Assembly narrowly reversed that decision on appeal in March, 5-4. Monday’s vote to rezone the property should have been a formality, but with only four yeas, it failed.

Opponents say putting light industry in the area is a bad fit, conflicts with long term planning documents and conflicts with efforts to promote affordable housing.

Mayor Sanford, who voted yes, said the failed vote is temporary; through a procedural action, the rezoning measure will be resurrected at the Assembly’s next meeting.

Filing fee for appeals double

It’s been 18 years since the cost of filing an appeal to a city board or commission’s decision has gone up. Monday, the Assembly approved doubling the $250 filing fee.

“It costs anywheres from $350 to $1,600 — estimate — just in copying for most appeals,” Sanford said. ” We should be recouping our expenses, too.”

Karen Crane and Jesse Kiehl were the no votes in the 5-2 vote.

Crane said raising the fee would discourage appeals, which she could justify if the city had a problem with a frivolous cases. But it doesn’t.

“I think we’re just making it more difficult for people to interact with local government by doing that,” Crane said.

Kiehl said the appeals process shouldn’t be thought of as a business.

“It seems that the $250 level we have now is  enough to beat back the oh-why-not-give-it-a-shot appeals, when you consider that we’re, we’re never going to recoup our costs for this.”

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