MINUTES

PLANNING COMMISSION

CITY AND BOROUGH OF JUNEAU, ALASKA

REGULAR MEETING

January 11, 2000

The regular meeting of the City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission, held in the Assembly Chambers of the Municipal Building, was called to order at 7:00 p.m. by Vice Chair Mike Bavard.

I. ROLL CALL

Commissioners present: Mike Bavard, Dan Bruce, Marshal Kendziorek, Mark Pusich, Tracey Ricker, Merrill Sanford, Jody Vick, Ken Williamson

Commissioners absent: Johan Dybdahl

A quorum was present.

Staff Present: Cheryl Easterwood, Community Development Director; Sylvia Kreel, CDD Planner

II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES

December 14, 1999 - Regular Meeting

December 28, 1999 - Special Meeting

MOTION - by Mr. Kendziorek to approve the minutes of the December 14, 1999 regular meeting and the December 28, 1999 special meeting as written.

There were no amendments or corrections. Without objection, the minutes were approved.

III. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION ON NON-AGENDA ITEMS - None

IV. SPECIAL ORDER OF BUSINESS

MOTION - by Ms. Ricker to approve the same slate of officers of the Planning Commission for the year 2000: Johan Dybdahl, Chair; Mike Bavard, Vice Chair; Tracey Ricker, Clerk; and Ken Williamson, Assistant Clerk.

There being no objection, it was so ordered.

Vice Chair Bavard indicated that the Commission would wait to discuss committee assignments until Chair Johan Dybdahl was present.

V. RECONSIDERATION OF THE FOLLOWING ITEMS - None

VI. CONSENT AGENDA

Vice Chair Bavard read the two items on the Consent Agenda. There were no questions from commissioners and no public comment or opposition.

MOTION - by Mr. Williamson to adopt the Consent Agenda consisting of CSP1999-00019 and USE1999-00073. There being no objection, it was so ordered.

CSP1999-00019

A CITY PROJECT REVIEW TO CONSTRUCT AN ADDITION TO THE EXISTING LYNN CANAL FIRE STATION FOR CREW QUARTERS AND EMERGENCY VEHICLE BAY.

USE1999-00073

A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT TO CONSTRUCT AN ADDITION TO THE EXISTING LYNN CANAL FIRE STATION FOR CREW QUARTERS AND EMERGENCY VEHICLE BAY.

Location: 17900 Glacier Highway

Applicant: CBJ Engineering

Staff recommendation (CSP1999-00019): That the Planning Commission adopt the director's analysis and findings and approve the proposed city project.

Staff recommendation (USE1999-00073): That the Planning Commission adopt the director's analysis and findings and grant the requested conditional use permit.

VII. CONSIDERATION OF ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS - None.

VIII. UNFINISHED BUSINESS - None

IX. REGULAR AGENDA

USE1999-00070

A CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT TO PROVIDE TEMPORARY STABLING FOR 16 TO 20 HORSES EACH MAY THROUGH SEPTEMBER. THE HORSES WILL BE USED TO PROVIDE HORSEBACK RIDING TOURS AT THE END OF MONTANA CREEK ROAD.

Location: 5500 Montana Creek Road

Applicant: Montana Creek Tours, LLC

Staff report: CDD Planner Sylvia Kreel reviewed the staff report, including the addendum to the report dated January 11, 2000. The applicant is requesting a permit to develop a seasonal horse stabling facility in an old gravel pit that would operate between May and September each year and accommodate 16 to 20 horses at a time. The temporary structure and manure pile would be removed each Fall and reconstructed each Spring (Site A). A second stabling area would be provided at the beginning of the unmaintained portion of the Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) right-of-way on Montana Creek Road. The horses will be used for horseback riding tours, managed by Montana Creek Tours, LLC. The applicant anticipates two to three riding trips per day, and in between the trips the horses would be kept at the beginning of the unmaintained portion of the ROW (Site B). DOT does not require a permit for this commercial venture on the DOT right-of-way. However, they will require a permit for any shelters constructed. The applicant is also looking at placing a portable toilet at Site B, and that will need a permit. DOT indicated that they regulate the use of their ROW if there are concerns from the neighborhood, but this would happen after the horseback riding operation has started. The Mendenhall Watershed Partnership and Trail Mix recently received a grant from DOT to do some maintenance work along the non-maintained portion of the Montana Creek Road ROW. They plan to clean the drainage ditches and do some culvert repairs and road work to correct some of the existing erosion problems. The use of horses on the road for tours will exacerbate the existing problems. The majority of the road is in pretty good shape, however, a few sections are in poor condition. There are two culvert washouts, as well as two sections where erosion has left only a narrow strip of road, and these could pose a safety problem. The addendum to the staff report further addresses these issues and adds two additional conditions that will help mitigate some of those potential impacts.

Mr. Kreel noted that although the Montana Creek Road ROW is not a CBJ trail, the applicant plans to basically follow CBJ Parks and Recreation Department's commercial trail use guidelines by restricting the riding tours to primarily week days and during the daytime. The stabling area is surrounded by high berms that will screen the horses from view and help block any odors and noise. The applicant plans to clean the road and Site B each day of manure and stockpile it on Site A (where it will be either donated or sold as compost at the end of the season). Staff did not find that there would be significant traffic impacts created by the horse stabling. They also found there would be no health and safety aspects if the culverts were repaired, and it would not be out of harmony with the neighborhood. The only potential conflict might be with other trail users - hikers, bicyclists and four-wheelers, and for that reason staff has included a condition that would limit the conditional use permit to two years.

Mr. Kreel stated that running the tours on the DOT ROW has the potential to impact the non-maintained portion of the road, which in turn will impact Montana Creek. The horse stabling is addressed in the Code, and the tours could not exist without the horse stabling. Because of that, the impacts to the road can be viewed as a result of the stabling.

Staff's revised recommendation: That the Planning Commission adopt the director's analysis and findings and grant the requested conditional use permit, subject to the following conditions:

1. The manure shall be picked up from the road and Site B daily and stored on Site A.

2. The manure pile on Site A shall be bermed in such a way that there shall be no run-off beyond the limits of the storage area.

3. While stabling at Site B, the horses shall be kept a minimum of 50 feet from the Ordinary High Water of Montana Creek.

4. For safety and environmental reasons, the horseback riding tours shall not commence until the two culvert washouts and the two areas with significant bank erosion have been repaired to prevent erosion into Montana Creek. The repair shall be completed to the satisfaction of CBJ staff, who will work with Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

5. Conditional use permit USE1999-00070 shall expire September 30, 2001.

Ms. Kreel said that after two years the applicant could reapply for another conditional use permit, if he so desired. At that time, the Planning Commission could evaluate user conflicts and impacts to the road and to Montana Creek.

Mr. Sanford asked where the Juneau Archery Club outdoor range was situated relative to the proposed horse stabling. Ms. Kreel wasn't sure.

Mr. Kendziorek inquired about the timetable for trail and road repairs. Ms. Kreel said she spoke to James King of Trail Mix, and he thought the work would take roughly a month and might start this summer. He didn't think that horses going by periodically would impede construction, but it might affect the quality of experience for the riders. Mr. Kendziorek observed that if the schedule for repairs is uncertain, then staff's condition #4 creates a level of uncertainty for the applicant, if they are not allowed to commence until the repairs are done. Ms. Kreel replied that the applicant would have the option of doing the work himself or working with Trail Mix by providing some funding.

Referring to condition #3, Mr. Pusich asked how the Ordinary High Water setback would be established to avoid encroachment. Ms. Kreel thought maybe the condition should include a statement "that the 50-foot mark shall be flagged or delineated by the applicant," then it becomes an enforcement issue if it is not done. Mr. Pusich asked how the portable toilets on Site B would be accessed for pumping, because right now the area is blocked. Ms. Kreel deferred that question for the applicant to answer.

Ms. Ricker asked what was meant by DOT regulating the use if a conflict arises. Ms. Kreel said DOT could put limitations on the use of DOT's right-of-way, but they did not give any examples. Ms. Ricker observed that the statement seems quite broad. Ms. Ricker asked why the manure would be stored on Site A. Ms. Kreel explained that manure cannot be left on the road, and Site B is where people will be staging for the horseback tours. Site A is large and has existing soil piles that can be used to berm around the stored manure while it dries out for composting use.

Mr. Williamson asked about the temporary structure on Site B. Ms. Kreel said the shelter would be seasonal and would be smaller than the pole frame and vinyl structure on Site A. Mr. Williamson stated that he wasn't clear on how DOT regulates a commercial use of a state right-of-way and how this application was different than other uses that have been banned by DOT on other roadside property. Ms. Kreel mentioned two DOT letters in the staff report that explain why no permit is required unless the applicant wants to put something in the right-of-way.

Mr. Bavard asked if the trail use was a separate issue from the applicant's request for a stabling permit. Ms. Kreel said the trail use is separate but is still an impact created by the horse stabling.

Public Testimony:

Dave Hanna, 11495 Mendenhall Loop Road, said he has used the Montana Creek neighborhood most of his life. He characterized himself as pro-capitalist and usually in favor of using public resources but not if it is detrimental to the public -- like the horseback riding tours. He estimated having talked to 40-50 people about this over the last month and didn't think there was one who was in favor of the proposed operation, the main concern being the trail where the horses will be ridden. Montana Creek Trail is heavily used, and pedestrians and horses do not mingle well in a wet climate where horses' hooves tear up the ground. Twenty horses times three trips per day is the equivalent of 120 horses running across the trail. The trail is in a sad state of disrepair right now and could be considered unsafe for pedestrian traffic. He thought it would be unsafe for equestrian traffic. There are plans to upgrade the trail, and it would be a shame to see it be downgraded by horse traffic. He believed there was an equestrian trail in the process of completion in the Peterson Hill area, and there are other private and public properties that could be used for this purpose. Horseback tours generate money and are something tourists will enjoy, but not at the cost of displacing the current local usage of Montana Creek Trail (one more pressure by tourism). He asked the Planning Commission to defer action on the requested permit and encourage the applicant to work with the Tourism Advisory Committee to find a better location for the horseback riding tours. He didn't see anything wrong with stabling the horses where proposed, since they are going to be trailered to the riding location anyway.

Mr. Kendziorek asked if the grant to repair the Montana Creek Trail is connected to the proposed horseback riding use. Ms. Kreel said the two activities are not related.

Mr. Hanna said he works with the Mendenhall Watershed Partnership and they are fairly positive about getting the grant for trail work, however, no design work has been done on the repairs. Because the work will be along the last nice anadromous waterbody in the Mendenhall Valley, it will proceed with caution to avoid a negative impact to the streamside. He doubted the repairs would be done immediately.

Mr. Bavard asked Mr. Hanna for his thoughts about condition #5 that would limit the permit to two years. Mr. Hanna said he thought that much horse traffic would ruin any trail improvements in short order.

[Later in the meeting, Mr. Hanna explained that people were mistakenly under the impression that they would not be able to comment on the trail use by horses, that their comments would be restricted to the permit for horse stabling. Otherwise, he thought more people would have attended this meeting.]

Wayne Nicolls, President of the Juneau Gun Club, read portions of his letter handed out at the meeting (on file) in opposition to the horse stabling across Montana Creek Road from the Gun Club. Their opposition was based on several factors: (1) an equestrian enterprise in the neighborhood may result in complaints about the sound of gunfire and the Gun Club may be forced to restrict shooting hours or locate elsewhere; (2) The Hank Harmon public shooting range and the Juneau Archery Club also are located on Montana Creek Road; and (3) there have been complaints from new people to the area who live nearly one-half mile from the Gun Club about the shooting noise and other activities nearby. He also expressed disappointment that the applicant did not consult the Juneau Gun Club and others in the neighborhood about their proposal before they heard about it through the notice of public hearing.

Mr. Sanford asked if the Gun Club was located across from Site A, the horse stabling area. Mr. Nicolls said yes. At Mr. Sanford's request, Mr. Nicolls also pointed out the location on the map of the Hank Harmon shooting range and the Juneau Archery Club.

Tom Boutin, Box 35116, Juneau, a member of the various shooting clubs, said he thought horseback riding for tourists was a fine idea but he worried about the noise. Some horses get used to shooting and some don't. On busy days, there are 60-70 people at the Juneau Gun Club, and he can hear all the way from his home on Aspen Avenue if people are shooting. His concern was that one day the shooting activity will have to be curtailed because of the horse stabling use nearby.

Mac Meiners, 9001 Firndale Street, said he was the primary member of gaming for the Gun Club, Ski Club. He said there are quite a few bears in the Montana Creek area, and the horse manure would only attract more bears. Also, he did not want to see the gun clubs bumped out of the neighborhood by future complaints about shooting noise. In closing, he said he was not opposed to the horseback riding activity, just that Montana Creek Road was the wrong location.

Mr. Williamson asked about the term of the lease that the Juneau Gun Club has with the City. Mr. Meiners said he didn't know, but he'd sure hate to see them have to move. He added that the back of the property is a good source of gravel.

Lyle Yost, the applicant, stated that a lot of the horses he will be bringing to Juneau are from hunting and pack strings and are accustomed to gunfire. He said he had no intention of complaining about shooting noise levels, and if tourists don't like it, that's too bad. The gun people were there first, and as far as he was concerned, they were going to stay. He never considered that the two activities would be incompatible, but he could understand the concerns being expressed by the gun clubs. He offered to answer any questions.

Mr. Bruce asked if condition #4 (repair culverts and bank washouts) were imposed and Trail Mix does not receive funding in time to make the repairs required, what would be the applicant's response. Mr. Yost replied that he became aware of condition #4 just ten minutes prior to this meeting, and his initial thought was that it would have a drastic impact because it would be impossible to operate the horseback riding tours under that condition. He visited the site today with James King who indicated the repairs have not been designed yet, and Trail Mix does not know when they will receive the DOT grant. Earlier, Fish & Game people told Mr. Yost that he could not take an excavator across the stream except by building a temporary bridge, which he cannot afford. From talking to Mr. King, he gathered that Trail Mix does not know how they will get an excavator across the stream either.

Mr. Bruce questioned the impact of roughly 120 horse trips a day on the road surface. Mr. Yost said that was his major concern when exploring the whole idea of riding tours, and Montana Creek Trail was the only trail that would work for horses. His intent is not to come to Juneau and destroy the environment. The trail is hard-packed road, and last year when he conducted trial runs with some horses he should have had shoes on the mules because the road was so hard. He doubted that horses will do anything to the hard-packed trail, and the tours do not intend to go off the trail. Contrary to staff's report, he thought there was only one slough area where horse traffic would have any impact. The two culvert washouts are gravel, and horses will not kick up dirt or degrade the trail there.

Mr. Kendziorek asked the applicant what will happen if he cannot get the handicap exemption he has requested. Mr. Yost explained that there will be a portable toilet at Site A where three to four able-bodied employees will work. The other portable toilet will be at the trailhead, and tourists need to be able-bodied to ride horses. If he is not granted the handicap exemption, he said he will have to install handicap toilets, which he understands are available.

Referring to a question posed by Mr. Pusich earlier, Mr. Kendziorek asked how the toilets will be pumped if there is no vehicular access to Site B. Mr. Yost said he didn't know, that he planned to contract for the service and the contractor will deal with it. If need be, the toilet could be located across on DOT property where it could be easily accessed. Mr. Kendziorek asked how often manure would be collected. Mr. Yost said manure collection would take place at the end of each day and be stored at the stabling site.

Mr. Pusich asked roughly how much manure would be generated daily. Mr. Yost estimated two five-gallon buckets of manure, based on three riding tours per day.

Mr. Bavard inquired about the applicant's position on a two-year permit, per condition #5. Mr. Yost replied that he preferred an open-ended permit, however, he could live with a two-year permit. He said his concern was that he might have to compete for a permit in the future with other enterprises that might start up.

Public testimony was closed.

Mr. Sanford asked how much local horse traffic there was on the Montana Creek Trail. Ms. Kreel said she didn't know, no one mentioned any horse use.

Mr. Williamson wondered what trails the horses from Swampy Acres and the Industrial Boulevard area use for riding. Ms. Kreel said she didn't know, other than on the premises. Mr. Williamson asked about the term of the Juneau Gun Club's lease on their property. Mr. Bruce said he thought it was a 25- to 30-year lease, beginning roughly ten years ago.

Mr. Bavard questioned if there was much interaction between staff and the applicant through the permitting process. Ms. Kreel said they spoke fairly often; the staff report addendum was written today in response to telephone comments and letters and discussions with other CDD planners. Initially, the staff report indicated leaving the trail use evaluation to DOT. However, after receiving more comments, staff determined that the trail use and the horse stabling were closely connected. Subsequently, staff recommended condition #4 to address the impacts to the trail from the horse stabling permit.

Mr. Bruce questioned if staff considered requiring a bond from the applicant to restore the trail's condition if it were damaged from horse traffic. Mr. Kreel said a bond was not discussed, however, condition #5 would give everyone a chance to evaluate the impacts after two years.

Mr. Sanford said he would like to see a condition whereby the applicant would acknowledge that gun clubs already exist in the area and agree not to challenge these prior users.

Commission Action:

MOTION - by Mr. Bruce to grant USE1999-00070 and adopt staff's analysis, findings and recommendations, including conditions 1 through 5.

1. The manure shall be picked up from the road and Site B daily and stored on Site A.

2. The manure pile on Site A shall be bermed in such a way that there shall be no run-off beyond the limits of the storage area.

3. While stabling at Site B, the horses shall be kept a minimum of 50 feet from the Ordinary High Water of Montana Creek.

4. For safety and environmental reasons, the horseback riding tours shall not commence until the two culvert washouts and the two areas with significant bank erosion have been repaired to prevent erosion into Montana Creek. The repair shall be completed to the satisfaction of CBJ staff, who will work with Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

5. Conditional use permit USE1999-00070 shall expire September 30, 2001.

Mr. Bruce spoke in favor of the motion, saying he was satisfied with the applicant's testimony about acknowledgement of prior uses in the area. With condition #5, the Commission has adequate opportunity to review the impacts of the horseback riding tours on the roadway and other users and resolve any conflicts at that time. He thought

condition #4 might be a stickler for the applicant, but the road does need some improvements, and he did want to leave it to DOT.

FRIENDLY AMENDMENT - by Mr. Sanford to add a condition about prior uses (Mr. Bruce and Ms. Kreel contributed to the wording):

6. The applicant shall acknowledge the existence of prior users of the Montana Creek area, including gun clubs and the current noise levels from gunfire, and that any conflicts would be resolved in favor of those prior uses.

Mr. Bruce accepted the amendment.

Mr. Kendziorek spoke against the motion, saying horseback riding tours are a good idea, but this is the wrong location. As staff reported, it is not possible to separate the horse stabling from the trail use. Besides trail damage, he was concerned about the manure litter that trail users will encounter during the day, and the potential runoff pollution in Montana Creek from manure and urine on rainy days. Montana Creek is one of the last pristine areas to fly fish in the area. The trail is fairly wide in areas, but the narrow portions could be a problem when horses encounter other users, such as hikers and runners.

Mr. Williamson expressed his support for the motion. His biggest concern was the testimony primarily from the Gun Club that the horse stabling and tours would be a conflict with existing users and that they might be displaced. He wasn't sure condition #6 was necessary but was not opposed to it either; it shows the Commission's concern and intent that the horse activities not displace the existing uses (gravel extraction and gun clubs). He thought condition #4 was probably pushing the limits of the Planning Commission's jurisdiction if the applicant has to improve the road in order to be able to use it. The primary issue is the stabling of horses, and to some extent it raises issues beyond that.

Roll Call Vote

Ayes: Vick, Williamson, Bruce, Pusich, Sanford, Bavard

Nays: Kendziorek, Ricker

The motion carried, 6-2.

X. BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT - There was no business.

XI. OTHER BUSINESS - None.

XII. PLANNING DIRECTOR'S REPORT

CDD Planning Director Cheryl Easterwood distributed a staff report from Gary Gillette entitled "Dollars For Parking," regarding a Code amendment to address parking downtown.

A work session date has not been scheduled because staff intends to first seek input from the Public Works & Facilities Committee, the Chamber of Commerce, and other interested community groups.

Ms. Easterwood asked, in light of the Community Development Department's budget cuts, that commissioners consider whether or not to send one commissioner to the APA Conference in New York on April 15-19. She added that there will be no CDD staff members going to the conference this year, and the department will not include in its budget any APA conferences for the two years. Three commissioners have not attended an APA conference: Vick, Kendziorek, and Sanford. She indicated that the department would need the Commission's decision within a month. Responding to Mr. Williamson, Ms. Easterwood said it costs about $2,000 for a commissioner to attend APA.

Mr. Bruce indicated that if the funds for a commissioner to go to APA are cut, he would like that money to go to staff continuing education. He thought the insight commissioners get from staff was overall more valuable.

Mr. Kendziorek agreed with Mr. Bruce's comment about staff education, adding that perhaps the CBJ could subsidize a commissioner to go but not pay all the expenses.

XIII. REPORT OF REGULAR AND SPECIAL COMMITTEES

Public Works Committee - Mr. Bruce said the committee met last week to discuss the status of various projects.

XIV. PLANNING COMMISSION COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS

Mr. Sanford said he had the draft environmental assessment report on the five projects proposed at the Airport, and public meetings will begin soon.

Mr. Kendziorek stated that he found the Western Planner article provided by staff to be informative and valuable, and he encouraged staff to continue passing that sort of thing on to commissioners.

Referring to public comment from the Juneau Gun Club heard earlier, Mr. Sanford questioned the public notice for USE1999-00070. Ms. Kreel assured him that proper public notice was made; the Gun Club's concern was that the applicant did not contact them personally.

Mr. Bavard asked when the Assembly is scheduled to hear the Douglas land swap with the Alaska Mental Health Trust. Ms. Easterwood said February 7. In the meantime, the Douglas Advisory Board will meet again on the issue on January 19.

XV. ADJOURNMENT

MOTION - by Ms. Ricker to adjourn. There being no other business and no objection, the meeting adjourned at 8:32 p.m.