The Juneau Assembly voted to adopt the 2016 Land Management Plan, which calls for the disposal and development of the Pederson Hill subdivision among other things, at its Monday night meeting. Several developers spoke out against doing so.
During a robust public testimony period, developer James Sidney recommended that the Assembly throw out both versions of the plan — the draft 2016 plan and its predecessor from 1999 — to “go back to square one and start over.” He said that the city needs to avoid getting into direct competition with developers.
“I think I speak for a lot of people in the borough about this particular problem,” Sidney told the Assembly.
Eight people, six of whom are developers, testified against the plan, particularly as it applies to the Pederson Hill subdivision. Another five people testified and shared generally favorable opinions of the plan.
Developer Marciano Duran said that he doesn’t support the Land Management Plan as it stands, but he would like developers to have a voice when the city talks about its affordable housing problem.
“I think it can be accomplished through the Assembly, the Planning Commission and developers coming together to get something done,” he said, adding that developers “still need assistance from the city coming up with a solution.”
Several other developers shared that sentiment, requesting a seat at the table as the city discusses fixing its housing problem.
During the meeting, developer and Affordable Housing Commission member Wayne Coogan said that two years ago, the city began speaking with the development community about how to lower the cost of housing. Both parties decided that the city would need to relinquish some of its 26,000 acres of land in order to do so. But the city “dropped the ball” by not further involving developers in its plans, a stipulation that Coogan said the city should add to the Land Management Plan.
“We should revisit this plan a little bit and add that provision and hopefully find a little more consensus,” Coogan told the Assembly.
Several Assembly members thanked the developers for their input and recognized that involving them in future housing discussions would be beneficial to both sides. But most Assembly members said that the Land Management Plan — in its current state — would allow for that.
Assembly member Jerry Nankervis voted to adopt the plan, noting that most of the public testimony was specific to the Pederson Hill subdivision rather than the plan as a whole.
“I look at this more as a guideline, and I don’t think anything is written in stone,” he said. “If anything is going to happen to any plot of land, it has to come back before this body.”
Assembly member Kate Troll added that the Land Management Plan is more of a “blueprint” for city land disposals. It only recommends the disposal and development of Pederson Hill; it doesn’t specify how the city should dispose of lots in the subdivision.
“It is very much the 30,000-foot level,” she said, speaking in favor of the plan. “It has been vetted as a blueprint. All of these detailed questions that are coming before us have yet to be figured out.”
One public testifier pointed out, though, the devil is in the details. Margaret O’Neal, the chair of the Affordable Housing Commission, said she was frustrated that city officials have already made so many decisions, impermanent though they are at this point, regarding Pederson Hill.
“Some of those decisions have already been made,” she said. “The land has already been rezoned in a somewhat restrictive zone and costs have been incurred.”
The Assembly adopted the plan with a 6–3 vote, and some of those who voted against adopting it shared their concerns.
Assembly member Loren Jones said he might support the plan at a later date, but he wanted the Assembly to look into it a little further before he would feel comfortable approving it. The plan is more than 100 pages long and includes recommendations for each city-owned parcel of land.
“I don’t think the Assembly has had any meetings where we’ve talked about or delved into the Land Management Plan,” Jones said. “I can’t support this for a variety of reasons, the most of which is I’m confused about what it actually does.”
• Contact reporter Sam DeGrave at 523-2279 or firstname.lastname@example.org.