Lands and Resources Manager Greg Chaney presents to the CBJ Assembly on Monday about moving forward with the Pederson Hill subdivision. The Assembly approved a motion granting Chaney’s staff permission to begin designing the subdivision. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Lands and Resources Manager Greg Chaney presents to the CBJ Assembly on Monday about moving forward with the Pederson Hill subdivision. The Assembly approved a motion granting Chaney’s staff permission to begin designing the subdivision. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Pederson Hill project closer to reality

The biggest challenge for Juneau’s economy is its housing shortage, Lands and Resources Manager Greg Chaney said during Monday night’s City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meeting.

Assembly members agreed, and passed a motion that gave Chaney’s staff the go-ahead to start designing the Pederson Hill subdivision.

“The Assembly definitely made a strong statement that they want to make a difference with the housing shortage in Juneau and that was very clear,” Chaney said afterward. “As staff, we’re going to proceed and try to get this out in the most efficient and economical manner that we can.”

The Pederson Hill subdivision housing project will provide 86 single-family housing units on a plot of land near Auke Lake, a proposal to alleviate the city’s affordable housing crisis.

During the meeting, the issue was whether to build to build the subdivision in one phase or two. The Assembly voted without objection to proceed in one phase, in part because if the project were to go along in multiple phases, it would delay getting plots up for sale.

With single-family housing and affordable housing being such important and long-standing issues in the community, the Assembly decided to move the project to its next phase.

“The single stage is more flexible,” Chaney said. “Once you have a big project, you can lay it out in the most efficient manner possible and the preliminary plat has already been approved by the Planning Commission, so we know we’re on good permitting ground.”

The estimated cost of the project is $8.8 million, which will come from a mix of three sources. The city has $4.6 million in a Capital Improvement Plan for Pederson Hill, and can pull $2 million more by putting other lands projects on hold for a brief time.

The city will also take out a loan from central treasury for the remainder of the cost. This loan was a source of debate during the meeting, which lasted for nearly an hour. Both Chaney and City Manager Rorie Watt were adamant that the loan would quickly be paid off as the city collects money from the subdivision.

“Once we start selling lots,” Chaney said, “we are going to repay the treasury loan first.”

After paying off that loan, the city will then put money back into the projects that it had put on hold, Chaney said.

The next step in this process is for CBJ staff, in conjunction with local engineering consultant DOWL, to get to design work. This includes planning drainage systems, sewer lines, sidewalk designs, streetlight locations, fire hydrant locations and more. Chaney said the aim is to have the design work done by early fall, and that bids could come in during early fall.

Chaney is hoping construction will begin sometime in 2018. The project will be designed in a way where multiple contractors will be able to bid on various parts of it, from lot clearing to earthwork to paving. This way, a higher number of local contractors will be eligible to work on the project, Chaney said.

Assembly member Beth Wheldon was particularly concerned with whether or not local contractors would be able to take on the project, and both Chaney and Watt quelled her concerns. Fellow Assembly member Debbie White, who is a realtor, was particularly vocal in wanting to move this project along quickly. She ended up making the final motion to direct staff to proceed with the design of the project.

White warned that if the city chooses to move slowly with this subdivision, people will be discouraged from moving to Juneau. The city taking action, she said, would be a good start in the right direction.

“We’ve spent a lot of money on housing studies on the shelf telling us that we have a problem,” White said, “so we’re either gonna do something about it or we’re gonna pretend that we’re gonna do something about it. That’s the way I look at it. I think we need to move forward with this.”

That was the overriding concern among other Assembly members too. Even though the state of the state’s economy is uncertain, which makes the local economy a bit uncertain, Chaney and others at Monday’s meeting were vocal about Juneau needing to address its housing shortage somehow.

“Who knows what the future holds for the economy of Juneau?” Chaney asked. “I know the biggest barrier to growth in our economy is housing. It may be that once we get these smaller lots on the market, that really starts to change.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at or 523-2271

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at or 523-2271

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