Juneau’s City Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau’s City Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Empire Live: Committee of the Whole looks at possibility of waterfront museum

Nuisance property ordinance, senior housing construction and waterfront plan

Summary: The Committee of the Whole voted to send two ordinances to the Assembly and ordered the city manager to pursue two projects. One ordinance concerned nuisance properties and the other updated the land use code. City manager Rorie Watt will begin negotiations with a developer for a senior housing facility in Vintage Park and continue developing a plan for a city museum on the waterfront. Read more here: City considers relocating Juneau-Douglas City Museum

7:22 p.m.

The committee votes to order the city manager to continue to develop the waterfront city museum concept and come back with more information requested by Assembly members.

7:20 p.m.

Watt is now giving an update on Phase 1 of the waterfront plan currently underway on south Franklin Avenue. Watt says there is an idea to build a new city museum on the location. That would allow for expansion of the capitol campus as well as moving the museum to a space that is “cost neutral” and didn’t require city general funds for support.

The city museum would also be a way to share the Alaska art collection of William Morris, former owner of the Juneau Empire. Watt says he has consulted with cruise ship industry officials who have said they believe their passengers would enjoy having the museum at that location.

Assembly member Loren Jones says he’s not sure the community is willing to spend money on the arts. He points to the recent failure of the ballot proposition for funding a new Juneau Arts and Culture Center as evidence for this.

Assembly member Rob Edwardson says he’s not in favor of the plan. If a city wanted to build a $10 million museum near his business, he’d be happy too.

Watt says that based on his conversations with cruise ship industry officials, they would be interested in supporting the project if things like bathrooms and visitor information were bundled with the museum project.

6:50 p.m.

City Manager Rorie Watt says he is going to pursue negotiations with the best bidder for the construction of a senior housing and memory facility in Vintage Park. Watt says he hopes that post-bid negotiations with the best bidder, Torrey Pines Development Group, will be completed soon but those things can take some time.

6:45 p.m.

The current code would only allow for a property own to reconstruct if the cost of reconstruction was 75% of the current assessed value, Maclean said. The new ordinance would allow for reconstruction even if the cost was 100% of the current assessed value of the structure in most circumstances.

Committee members are asking a number of questions about the minutiae of both the current ordinance and the proposed changes.

Committee votes to send the ordinance to the Assembly.

6:30 p.m.

The committee is going to amend a land use code related to “nonconforming” development.

A nonconforming property is one that was conforming at the time it was built, but the land use codes have since changed.

Director of Community Development Jill Maclean explained to the committee what the differences are between this version of the ordinance and previous versions.

The problem for Juneau, Maclean says, is that certain businesses cannot receive financing from banks for reconstruction after an accident or some other emergency because the old building/business doesn’t meet the current code. The new code would allow for more flexibility in those circumstances.

A new ordinance would allow for what Maclean calls “nonconforming situations” to be reviewed and provided with a certificate showing the property is legal in the eyes of the city. That would allow for owners to go to banks or other financial institutions.

6:10 p.m.

The first thing on tonight’s agenda is public comment on a public nuisance ordinance. The first to testify is Brock Tabor who says that he has reviewed at least 20 public nuisance ordinances from around the country and he feels this one is very well crafted. He wanted to commend and thank the committee for their work.

Cathy Swanson asks what exactly constitutes a nuisance property. There are a number of houses she’s aware of that she claims are centers of criminal activity. It’s affecting property values, she says. She makes no objection to the ordinance itself.

The Committee votes to send the ordinance to the Assembly.

6 p.m.

On tonight’s agenda: public hearing for a nuisance proprieties ordinance, bids for the construction of senior housing and waterfront plan update.

Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.

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