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 moves ahead with senior housing ordinance

Assembly goals and waterfront leasing are on the agenda

Summary: The Committee of the Whole decided to move forward with paying $2 million toward the development of a senior living facility in Vintage Park. Committee members had some concerns whether the business would ultimately be successful and whether it should be paying such a large amount toward the project.

The committee voted to send the ordinance to the regular Assembly and will look at the project in more detail at their next meeting. Read more here: Senior housing project gets tentative go ahead

7:37 p.m.

In light of some of the upcoming projects on the downtown waterfront, the committee had a brief discussion on what its role might be in waterfront leasing projects. Normally that process would be left to the Docks and Harbors and the Lands Department but considering the gravity of upcoming projects, i.e. the Norwegian Cruise Line project, the committee is considering if it wanted to reassess its role.

The committee agrees that it wants to have a more in depth discussion at a later meeting.

7:25 p.m.

In a previous session, members had cast votes for each of the goals to determine their priority. Because the adopted goals would ultimate make work not for the Assembly members but city department staff, the Assembly votes to dismiss any goals that received two or fewer votes.

7:10 p.m.

After a short break, the Committee is moving on the its goals for 2020. Goals have been divided into different categories, i.e. Housing, Sustainable Budget and Organization.

Assembly members are currently looking at the wording of the goals and suggesting potential changes.

6:55 p.m.

Mayor Beth Weldon makes a motion to forward the ordinance to the regular Assembly.

Motion passes with no objection.

6:50 p.m.

Because the project is ultimately a business, there is a lot of concern among Assembly members about its success and whether the city should be financing it. Most of the Assembly seems to be in favor of the project in theory, but there are a lot of uncertainties which are making members wary.

Assembly member Loren Jones asks if Torrey Pines is a company that likes to build, manage for a few years and then sell the property, which would then change the terms of the agreement.

Ciambor answers that in conversations with the company they appear to be a, “build and hold” company that likes to retain ownership of their developments, but a more thorough background check of their operations could be done.

6:30 p.m.

Part of the developer’s plan includes making eight of the 88 proposed beds open to Medicaid patients. But that assumes there will be eight Medicaid patients interested. If there are no Medicaid patients, Torrey Pines wants a 12-year tax abatement period guaranteed as part of the deal.

The project would help achieve some of the Assembly’s goals outlined in the Housing Action Plan, Ciambor said.

$2 million should feel uncomfortable to you, Watt tells the committee, because it is a lot of money but over the long term it will prove worth it.

There are lots of examples of expensive public investment which over the years have helped to expand public and private interests, Watt says. Bring public drinking water to some homes and the development of the city’s harbors are two examples.

6:15 p.m.

Chief Housing Officer Scott Ciambor is giving the committee a review of how the project came to be. Two years ago, the city decided it had to take a more proactive role in developing senior housing in the city and thus purchased the Vintage Park property.

Torrey Pines created an RFP that would require a $2 million grant from the city to complete the project.

Senior housing is not attractive to the private sector, City Manager Rorie Watt says, and in order for a developer to want to build it would need buy-in from the city.

The ultimate goal for the city is to have the project be successful, Watt says, and less money in the project means higher bed rates or a less quality facility. Neither of those two options will help the project be successful, he says.

6:00 p.m.

Tonight at the Committee of the Whole meeting: Torrey Pines Development Group has completed a request for proposal for a senior living facility in Vintage Park in the Mendenhall Valley. That proposal could be approved tonight and the land sold to Torrey Pines.

Also on the agenda, Assembly goals for 2020.

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

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