A Seattle-based construction company is seeking a permit to build an asphalt plant at the Alaska Marine Lines Yard, seen here Wednesday.

A Seattle-based construction company is seeking a permit to build an asphalt plant at the Alaska Marine Lines Yard, seen here Wednesday.

Rocky road: Commission tables asphalt talk, again

A proposed asphalt plant at the Rock Dump hit another pothole in the permitting process during Tuesday night’s Planning Commission meeting.

“This is our third meeting on this topic, and I know we’re going to conclude it this time,” a hopeful Commission Chair Ben Haight said before he and his peers began discussing the permit.

But once again, the commission hit an impasse while trying to decide whether to grant a conditional use permit to the Knik Construction Company. The Seattle-based company is seeking the permit to build an asphalt plant at the Alaska Marine Lines Yard. But not everybody likes the idea, including some commissioners.

At the Planning Commission’s April 26 meeting, more than half a dozen people spoke out against the plant, which would greatly increase truck traffic through the downtown core during peak tourism months. By Knik Construction’s estimate, which was lower than the city’s, the plant would add 100–210 truck round trips per day to Thane Road and South Franklin Street.

[A sticky situation: Asphalt plant proposal forces tough choice at commission meeting.]

When it came time to vote on the permit, the commission couldn’t find the numbers to approve or deny the permit. Typically, the commission comprises nine members. But since the Juneau Assembly removed chair Nicole Grewe in late February, the commission has been operating with only eight members. This doesn’t usually impede the commission’s ability to make decisions, but it can pose problems in contested decisions, as was the case Tuesday.

Commissioner Percy Frisby was absent, leaving a seven-member commission to tackle the decision, which failed to get the five affirmative votes necessary to approve or deny the permit.

Commissioner Bill Peters motioned to approve the permit, reiterating that Juneau needs another asphalt plant, a point he made when he moved to approve the permit at the last meeting.

Peters’ motion failed 4–3. Though a plurality of commissioners supported it, the motion couldn’t swing the critical fifth vote.

Commissioner Paul Voelckers followed Peters’ motion with a motion to deny the permit.

“The vast majority of public conflict has been opposed to this, and I think for good reason,” he said. “Truck traffic full of hot asphalt would be negative and detrimental to tourist activity downtown.”

His motion failed 3–4. None of the commissioners had budged.

In the interest of moving the meeting forward — and hopefully obtaining a decision — commissioner Michael LeVine moved to continue the item until the next meeting, scheduled for May 24. At that point, he said, the Assembly should have filled the vacant spot on the commission, and with nine members, gridlock shouldn’t be a problem.

Gavel to gravel

Secon Inc. will be expanding its gravel mining operation in Lemon Creek after the Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit that would extend its current activities in the area.

“This permit is extending activities that are already occurring in accordance with an existing permit,” Tim Felstead, a senior planner with the CDD, told the commission Tuesday night, referring to the company’s work in the Hidden Valley portion of Lemon Creek. 

The company currently extracts gravel from the area between the Glacier Highway Bridge and the Lemon Creek Correctional Center. But this recently approved permit has nothing to do with its Anka Street operation. It only applies to its operation in Hidden Valley, about a mile upstream from the prison.

The commission approved the permit, which expires in 10 years, without objection.

• Contact reporter Sam DeGrave at 523-2279 or sam.degrave@juneauempire.com.

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