MINUTES
PLANNING COMMISSION
CITY AND BOROUGH OF JUNEAU
REGULAR MEETING
February 27, 2001

Chair Johan Dybdahl called the regular meeting of the City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission to order at 7:00 p.m., in the Assembly Chambers of City Hall.

I. ROLL CALL

Commissioners present: Roger Allington, Mike Bavard, Dan Bruce, Johan Dybdahl, Maria Gladziszewski, Marshal Kendziorek, Mark Pusich, Merrill Sanford

Commissioners absent: Jody Vick

A quorum was present.

Staff present: Cheryl Easterwood, Director of Community Development; Gary Gillette, CDD Principal Planner; Sylvia Kreel, CDD Planner; Teri Camery, CDD Planner

Other CBJ staff present: Alan Hesse, CBJ Airport Manager; Ralph Sanford, Airport Operations Manager; Tad Fujioka, CBJ Engineering

II. APPROVAL OF MINUTES - None

III. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION ON NON-AGENDA ITEMS - None

IV. POSSIBLE RECONSIDERATION OF THE FOLLOWING ITEM - None

V. CONSENT AGENDA - None 

VI. CONSIDERATION OF ORDINANCES AND RESOLUTIONS - None

TXT2001-00001An ordinance to amend the Land Use Code to allow an existing building in the Mixed Use zoning district to revert to its original residential density after subsequent use changes.

Location: 230 SOUTH FRANKLIN STREET Applicant: MARINE VIEW CENTER

Staff report: CDD Planner Gary Gillette briefed the Planning Commission on the proposed changes to the Land Use Code.

This proposed ordinance amendment came about because of a proposal by the Marine View Center. The building was constructed in 1973, with retail on the first floor and apartments on floors 2 through 9. Over time, several additional floors had been converted to office space. Now that demand for office space has declined, the owner would like to meet the increasing demand for housing downtown and convert the 2nd floor back to residential. In reviewing this proposal, CDD staff determined that the density of the building was greater than that allowed in the MU, Mixed Use zoning district. Once a non-conforming use is abandoned for more than a year it cannot revert back to the former use. Thus, it was not feasible for CDD to approve the proposal to revert back to residential uses.

The problem is that CDD can't allow these downtown buildings (the Mendenhall Apartments would present a similar problem) to go back to there original density because of the Comprehensive Plan. At the same time, the Comprehensive Plan encourages more residential units downtown. To correct this inconsistency, the proposed ordinance would allow a building to go back to its original residential density, so long as it did not add more space to the building.

The impact to parking was considered as a part of the ordinance change and no impact was found. The change would not impact buildings that are in Parking District 2, since the parking requirement for residential use is less than commercial uses. As well, some buildings are in Parking District 1, which does not require additional parking for a change of use.

Staff recommendation: That the Planning Commission recommend that the Assembly adopt TXT2001-0001, Ordinance Serial No. 2001-02, an ordinance amending the Land Use Code Table of Permissible Uses to allow an existing building in the Mixed Use zoning district to revert to its original residential density after subsequent use changes.

Mr. Allington asked Mr. Gillette to elaborate on the current parking situation at the Marine View Building. Mr. Gillette has not noticed problems and he knows that the building rents space in the Municipal Parking Garage to provide supplemental parking.

Mr. Kendziorek asked if residential space could ever be converted back to office space. Mr. Gillette stated that the Code would allow for that eventuality. The Marine View Building is in Parking District 1, which means when it was converted to office space, they were not required to make up the difference in parking because uses can change without changing the parking requirement. There are other areas in the vicinity of downtown that are in Parking District 2, wherein a conversion to a higher use occurs, the parking requirement must be met. If that building reverts back to residential, the parking requirement would be less, and the building would probably have an excess of parking.

Mr. Bruce recalled that the Marine View Building had some engineering difficulties that resulted in all of the tenant’s eviction. Have those structural issues been resolved? Mr. Gillette stated that they were resolved prior to re-occupancy.

Mr. Allington suggested a modification to the ordinance change so that it stated in Section 2 (d), line 15, "revert to its original residential density and parking requirements after subsequent use changes"

Mr. Gillette had no objection to the addition.

Public Testimony:

There was no one who wanted to testify and so Chairman Dybdahl closed public testimony.

Commission Action:

Motion: by Mr. Kendziorek, to recommend TXT2001-00001 with the modification to Section 2 (d), line 15, inserting the words "and parking requirements" to the Assembly as a draft ordinance with the Planning Commission's recommendation to move it forward.

There was no objection to the Motion and so it passed unanimously.

TXT2001-00002

An ordinance to amend the Land Use Code to authorize the Director of Community Development to approve accessory apartment permits.

Location: BOROUGHWIDE
Applicant: CITY & BOROUGH OF JUNEAU

Staff report: Teri Camery reviewed the proposed ordinance change for the Planning Commission. This ordinance simplifies the process for reviewing and approving accessory apartments and changes minor provisions of the Code that have been a hindrance in developing accessory apartments.

All of the provisions dealing with the basic requirements for establishing an accessory apartment in a single-family home remain in place. Since it was implemented in 1994, the Planning Commission has reviewed and approved a large number of accessory apartments. Apartments that pass initial staff review and meet the standards of the code have rarely met any public opposition and almost always fall under the Consent Agenda for immediate approval. This revision is intended to simplify the approval process and thereby promote development of more accessory apartments.

Several other minor changes to the to accessory apartment ordinances are included in the ordinance. For example, In the original ordinance accessory apartments have been allowed only on lots that are within 100-150% of the minimum lot size. This lot size maximum restriction has been lifted while the minimum size has been retained.

Ms. Camery said that the apartment size provision of the ordinance is also a part of the review. Staff determined that a 600 square feet apartment would be a maximum apartment size. 600 square feet was chosen because it keeps rental costs down, limits the number of tenants to two people and the impact to the neighborhood is subsequently minimized.

As well, the ordinance will require that detached accessory apartments within the D-5 zone be approved through the Conditional Use process rather than from the Variance process.

Staff recommendation: that the Planning Commission recommend to the Assembly the adoption of TX2001-0002, Ordinance Serial No. 2000-40, an ordinance amending the Land Use Code to authorize the Director of Community Development to approve accessory apartment use permits.

Mr. Allington asked for clarification of Section 3(F) Applications which do not meet all requirements imposed by this section shall be heard through the Variance process.

Ms. Easterwood explained that 3(F) addresses the situation where an application does not exactly meet the Code requirements. In that case, it would come before the Planning Commission as a Variance.

Mr. Allington suggested that it not be considered a "variance" but rather a conditional use. Ms. Easterwood said that because it would not exactly meet the Code requirements, it would require varying a standard.

Mr. Sanford asked how much time would this streamlining save the public? Ms. Easterwood predicted that even though the process involves public notice and a public review process, it would still save about three weeks.

Mr. Kendziorek asked what process would be involved if an applicant required a Variance. Ms. Easterwood indicated that the Variance would come before the Planning Commission. The Commission would approve or deny the Variance to allow an accessory apartment with, say one parking space. There would be situations when the Planning Commission would review the application for an accessory apartment. If the adjacent property owners noted significant concerns, if there were any type of Variance required, or if the building is in a detached garage in a D-5 zone.

Mr. Kendziorek asked who makes the determination that the neighbors have significant concerns? Ms. Easterwood indicated that the Director of the Community Development Department makes that determination.

Ms. Camery directed Commissioner's attention to Section 3 (B)(iii) on page 2 of the draft ordinance. The original language that refers to Service Areas will be retained.

Mr. Kendziorek asked if Service Areas have been eliminated, why is the language retained? Ms. Easterwood said that Service Areas - relative to fire service have been eliminated; however, the Land Use Code continues to make reference to Service Areas.

The intent was to restate the same thing in clearer English, but after careful review, it had the unintended result of expanding the numbers and types of lots that are eligible for accessory apartments.

Public Testimony:

There was no one who wanted to testify and so Chairman Dybdahl closed public testimony.

Commission Action:

Motion: by Mr. Bavard, to accept staff's analysis and recommendations and forward TXT2001-00002 with the modification to Section 3(B)(iii) to the Assembly as a draft ordinance with the Planning Commission's recommendation to move it forward.

Mr. Bavard spoke in support of the Motion stating that anything that could be done to move the process along would benefit the community.

Mr. Pusich agreed, noting that the ordinance change was merely a revision in the process.

There was no objection to the Motion and it was so ordered.

VII. UNFINISHED BUSINESS - None

VIII. REGULAR AGENDA

USE2001-00007

A Conditional Use permit for expansion of the sanctuary to double capacity to expand the fellowship hall, and to add classrooms.

Location: 09741 MENDENHALL LOOP RD Applicant: VALLEY CHAPEL

Staff report: Teri Camery reviewed the staff report for the proposed expansion of the Valley Chapel facility. She explained that due to the extensive remodel and its corresponding increase in public use, a second Conditional Use permit was required. The primary impact of the increase in use will be upon the traffic flow and circulation within the parking lot and access to Mendenhall Loop Road. The applicant has applied to the Department of Transportation for a second entrance to the site. Ms. Camery noted that the initial staff report included a Condition requiring approval for that second driveway entrance. Under further review, CDD determined that the second driveway would be desirable, but it did not amount to a safety issue, hence, Condition No. 2 is deleted. The Department of Transportation has indicated that approval is likely, but that there is an issue with inadequate sight distance. In order to meet the requirements for sight distance, a significant area of the buffer would need to be removed. This would become an issue for the neighbors, as the buffer shields their view of the parking lot.

If the buffer of trees must be removed CDD wants assurances that the applicant will replace the vegetation to a sufficient height so that the neighbors are shielded. Reflecting this, a Condition is proposed stating:

Condition No. 2, "If a portion of the buffer strip of trees must be removed in order to secure the second driveway permit, the applicant shall replace that part of the buffer with vegetation sufficient to screen the parking lot, according to DOT height specifications contained in the driveway permit."

Also, Condition No. 1 raises the issue of a lighting plan for the proposed project. While the applicant did not submit a lighting plan, CDD feels that it is a significant issue for the neighborhood and it wants to ensure that that lighting is directed down to the lot and it is not projected out into the neighborhood. The Condition No. 1 requires that CDD review the light plan prior to issuance of a building permit.

Staff recommendation: that the Planning Commission adopt the director's analysis and findings and grant the requested Conditional Use permit for expansion of the Valley Chapel with the following condition:

  1. Prior to issuance of a building permit, the applicant shall submit specifications of the luminaries for final review and approval by CDD staff.
  2. If a portion of the buffer strip of trees must be removed in order to secure the second driveway permit, the applicant shall replace that part of the buffer with vegetation sufficient to screen the parking lot, according to DOT height specifications contained in the driveway permit. (SUBSTITUTION FOR ORIGINAL CONDITION NO. 2)
  3. Public Testimony:

    There was no one who wanted to testify and so Chairman Dybdahl closed public testimony.

    Commission Action:

    Motion: by Mr. Kendziorek, to accept staff's analysis, findings and recommendations, including the substitution for Condition No. 2 with the suggestion from Ms. Camery's memo of February 27, 2001 and approve USE2001-00007.

    Mr. Pusich commented that it is impossible to have both tree height in a buffer, which screens cars, and adequate sight distance. He thought staff should work with the applicant to craft something into the Condition.

    Mr. Allington suggests that the buffer Condition be modified to state that it is "acceptable to staff and to DOT." This is so the applicant is not left on their own to figure out the buffer composition.

    Mr. Pusich suggested that Condition No. 2 be modified adding the caveat that "it is acceptable by CBJ staff and in accordance to DOT sight distance specifications."

    Ms. Easterwood further clarified Condition No. 2 by adding a timeframe. "If a portion of the buffer strip of trees must be removed in order to secure the second driveway permit, prior to the issuance of a building permit, the applicant shall present a plan that replaces that part of the buffer with vegetation sufficient to screen the parking lot and it is acceptable by CBJ staff and in accordance to DOT sight distance specifications

    Mr. Kendziorek accepted that to be a friendly amendment.

    There was no objection to the Motion and so it passed unanimously.  

    Mr. Dybdahl adjourned the Planning Commission at 7:40 p.m. and announced that it would reconvene as the Board of Adjustment.

    IX. BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT

    VAR2001-00003
    A variance to allow a two-story detached garage in a 10-foot setback where a 17.5 feet is required.

    Location: 17090 GLACIER HIGHWAY
    Applicant: LYNETTE CAMPBELL

    Staff report: Teri Camery reported to the Planning Commission that the applicant proposes to build a two-story garage with living space on the second floor. This will be built 10-feet from the front yard setback, in an area where 17.5 feet is required. The second story design contains two bedrooms and a family room while the first story includes a garage and a bathroom.

    Ms. Camery notes that the applicant has an unusual yard on account of dual right-of-way easements which create three front yard setbacks. The problem dates back to 1997, when the applicant built their house according to incorrect setback information received from the CBJ. CBJ allowed the home to remain but cautioned that the garage would need to conform to the new setbacks. At this point, the garage's foundation has been laid at the 10-foot line to avoid a stream and drainage area in the rear of the proposed garage.

    Ms. Camery states that the Land Use Code does allow a minimum garage setback of five feet, if certain criteria are met. However, one criteria is that the garage be limited to one story. If the applicant were to scale the project back to one story, they could meet the garage exception. If the Variance request is not approved, the applicant indicates the garage would indeed be scaled back to one-story.

    After reviewing the criterion for variances found in CBJ 49.20.250, it is evident that while the garage does not appear to have any great impact on adjoining properties, there are no extraordinary situations or unique physical features associated with the site that would have created a hardship and practical difficulty to keep the applicant from complying with regulations and justify the variance. The applicant has two options: they can scale back the design to one-story or they may move the two-story garage back an additional 7.5 feet.

    Following its review, staff finds that the Variance does not meet criteria for a Variance, specifically, Nos. 1, 5 and 6.

    Staff recommendation: that the Board of Adjustment adopt the staff analysis and director’s findings, and deny the requested Variance.

    Mr. Bavard asked about the foundation that had been laid in January. Ms. Camery stated that a building permit had been obtained, but the applicant knew that a second story could not be built without a Variance.

    Mr. Pusich raised Variance criteria 5(C), and asked for a definition of the term, "unreasonably expensive." Ms. Camery indicated that it is a judgement call on staff's part.

    Ms. Easterwood noted that the report states, "staff lacks evidence that this (the expense of additional fill) would render compliance with standards ‘unreasonably’ expensive."

    Mr. Pusich asked what would be needed from the applicant to obtain the evidence? Ms. Easterwood said cost estimates would be adequate.

    Mr. Allington asked about the easement noted on Attachment B. Ms. Camery said that one easement is off of Glacier Highway, to be used in the event that the road needs to be widened. The other is off of Andreanoff Drive, a neighboring street. Ms. Camery agreed that it is an unusual circumstance.

    Mr. Bruce asked if there were discussions with the applicant on why they did not build Phase II as it were originally planned on their schematics, opposed to a detached garage? Ms. Camery referred that to the applicant to answer.

    Public Testimony:

    Alex Wertheimer, 17200 Andreanoff Drive, owns the lot adjacent to the Campbell's, to the east. Mr. Wertheimer and his wife agree with the staff report, that the criteria for a Variance have not been met. The Wertheimer's have two concerns: first, that the dwelling on the second floor could easily be converted into a separate residence. Second, that the two-story building with its lights would be clearly visible from their home, which would diminish the rural character of

    their property. He understood that as undeveloped land is put into use, impacts occur. However, he didn't think they ought to be subjected to impacts beyond what is allowed by the zoning constraints. He urged the Planning Commission to deny the variance.

    Alan Degener, 17050 Glacier Highway, and his wife, Sheila are the Campbell's neighbor to the south. While the Degener's have had a positive relationship to the Campbell's they are opposed to the Variance. Mr. Degener reviewed the points cited in his letter for the Planning Commission. He felt that if proper site prep was too expensive, then the responsible homeowner ought to scale back the project so that it was affordable. It isn't the CBJ's responsibility to scale back zoning rules to accommodate a homeowner's budget. They objected to the rural nature of their property being altered by a 2-story building that would have full view into their bedroom.

    Mr. Degener points out that a sketch provided by the applicant distorts how the structures actually lay on the property. As well, Mr. Degener cites Section 49.25 of the Land Use Code that deals with garages and a five-foot setback exception. He said that even if the Campbell’s garage is single story, according, Section (G)(3), the maximum gross floor area of 600 feet. He reports that the proposed garage has a larger footprint than what the Code allows. As he interpreted the Code, even the Campbell’s one-story garage would require a Variance. He asked for that issue to be clarified.

    He urged the Planning Commission to deny the Variance, and if applicable, require the applicant to discontinue the construction of the current garage and to apply for a Variance to in compliance to the Land Use Code.

    Mr. Kendziorek asked Mr. Degener to illustrate for the Planning Commission how the Campbell's house and proposed garage sits on the property, from his point of view. Mr. Degener made a drawing on the white board in response.

    Mr. Pusich asked if the Building Department had been provided with an as-built. Ms. Camery did not have the supporting documentation from the Building Permit. Mr. Pusich said that typically, a registered land surveyor must provide a verification of a setback. If the applicant had not provided that, the issue ought to be researched.

    Lyn Campbell, 17090 Glacier Highway, is the applicant for the Variance. She has a longstanding relationship with the CDD dating back to when they were given the original information in which the project was based upon. They were told that they could build future additions right up to the easement line (a zero setback). Even after the applicant was told the zero-setback letter was inaccurate, there was confusion as to what the setback really was.

    The question was asked why they didn't go forward with building an attached garage. When they realized that any new additions must conform to zoning regulations, they sought to build a conforming building. Unfortunately, no configuration could be designed which would avoid butting up against the easement, so they opted for the detached addition.

    Ms. Campbell views the testimony of her neighbors as supportive of the Variance. If they had to go with the 17.5-foot setback, it would place the two-story structure into the drainage area. Filling the drainage area would have a significant impact onto the Degener's property. By placing the structure as close to the Campbell's home as possible, it reduces the impacts to the Wertheimer's and the Degener's, as well as reducing their site preparation costs. As well, because the addition will be living space, the Campbell's wanted it close to their home. If the structure were built within the guidelines of the Code, and the 17.5-foot setback were observed, it would have a negative impact on the neighbors.

    Mr. Bavard notes that Attachment "B" indicates the first choice of locations for their addition. Would that addition have been a single story or two-story? Ms. Campbell indicated that they explored both options.

    Mr. Allington asked if the applicant was certain of the dimensions, considering the discrepancy that Mr. Degener pointed out. Ms. Campbell said that since the drawings, John Bean came out and surveyed the site. She is very certain of the dimensions and distances. Mr. Pusich regretted not having the resent survey provided to the Commission.

    Mr. Kendziorek asked if the addition were living space or a garage. Ms. Campbell stated that it was both. Upstairs would be a music room and a bedroom. Downstairs would be a garage and utility type bathroom. The upstairs will not have plumbing so its conversion into an apartment would be difficult.

    Mr. Bavard referred staff to the applicant's original proposed location indicated on Attachment B, by dotted lines. That addition could have been a single-story and have been 5-feet from the easement line. Ms. Camery agreed.

    Mr. Bavard asked for clarification on Mr. Degener's comment about allowable floor space. Ms. Easterwood said that in order to qualify for the 5-foot exception, the garage must be 600 square feet. As it were, the garage would have to be scaled back, or another Variance would have to be sought.

    Ms. Gladziszewksi asked if the existing foundation could not be used for anything? If the applicant were to build a one-story garage on the existing foundation, would the applicant need a Variance?

    Ms. Easterwood suggested a short recess to confer with the Land Use Code.

    Following the recess, Ms. Easterwood said that the setback exception provides that a garage may be placed within 5-feet of a property line, provided that certain criteria are met. One of the criteria is that the garage be a maximum of 600 square feet. In this case, the garage is larger. Further, the garage would occupy about 225 square feet of the setback area. Ms. Easterwood wanted to confer with the permit specialist to determine how this section of the Code has been interpreted in the past. The question being: is part of the building allowed to exist in this area or is it not allowed. Because of this particular question and also with questions pertaining to the location of the garage, Ms. Easterwood suggested that staff conduct additional research and that the item be continued until the March 13, 2001 Regular Meeting.

    Commission Action:

    Motion: by Mr. Bavard that VAR2001-00003 be continued. There was no objection and it was so ordered.

    Mr. Pusich requested that the as-built be provided at the next hearing.

    VAR2001-00007

    Variance request by Juneau International Airport to remove substantial vegetation within 50 feet of Jordan Creek.

    Location: 01971 SHELL SIMMONS DRIVE
    Applicant: CITY & BOROUGH OF JUNEAU

    Mr. Sanford disclosed that his brother is the Operations Supervisor at the airport.

    Staff report: Sylvia Kreel reported that the Airport is requesting a Variance to remove spruce, hemlock, cottonwood and taller alders that are adjacent to Jordan Creek, where the creek passes through the airport property. The applicant requests the Variance entirely for safety reasons. From the air traffic control tower, the trees prohibit clear vision to several taxiways and aircraft operation areas. As well, the trees present a danger to planes in duress. Finally, the principal hazard of the trees is that they are a bird attractant. They provide a habitat especially for eagles and low flying herons, which fly across the runway between Jordan Creek and the Refuge. Ms. Kreel demonstrated the subject area for the Planning Commission on an aerial photograph.

    The trees to be removed west of Crest Street are within the dike. The majority of the trees that are east of Crest Street are located on top of or on the outside of the dike. The trees that our outside the dike have less of an impact on Jordan Creek than the trees within the dike. The existing willows and lower alder trees adjacent to the creek, west of Crest Street will be retained.

    CDD staff discussed alternatives to clearing out the trees, for example, topping the trees. David Lendrum of Landscape Alaska indicated that up to 50 percent of a spruce tree could be cut without killing the tree, if done properly. The upper branches could be tied up and thereby retaining the shape of the tree. However, this would only solve the visibility issue and it would not solve the bird attractant or hazard that the trees pose when planes are in duress.

    The Wetland Review Board visited the site on February 1, 2001 and discussed the Variance at length at their meeting on February 15, 2001. The board discussed mitigation measures including planting willow shrubs adjacent to the stream both east and west of Crest Street. The willows would replace some of the function lost by the tree removal but not all. For example, trees provide shade in the summer and in the winter. They provide cover for fish, large woody debris that add nutrition to the streams. Trees also provide insects. Regardless of what is planted for mitigation, Jordan Creek will suffer a loss, but the willows will help. Dave Lendrum has been consulted with regard to transplanting, and his suggestions are reflected in several of the Conditions.

    Ms. Kreel reviewed the Land Use Code: Section 49.70.310(a)(5) prohibits development within 50 feet of the banks of designated stream corridors. The definition of development includes the removal of significant vegetative cover. She stated that this Variance is a difficult one for her to have reviewed. The airport has presented several safety concerns and they have provided details of bird strikes and some on ground conflicts that took place because the air traffic controllers cannot view all areas of the tarmac.

    Ms. Kreel stated that a Variance may be granted after the Board of Adjustment has determined a number of elements exist. First, will the Variance will give substantial relief to the airport by enabling improved visibility; reduce the risk of bird strikes and a reduction in hazards to planes in duress?

    While the community values both fish habitat and safety, in this circumstance, these values are at odds. With at least mitigation measures such as willows, both interests can be addressed. Enhancing public safety is a compelling necessity and granting this Variance enhances both public safety and welfare.

    Ms. Kreel reports that compliance with the existing standard would be unnecessarily burdensome because of physical features of the property render compliance with the standards unreasonably expensive. By nature, airports have safety and other issues unlike any other uses found in the community. Compliance would ultimately limit visibility and safety. Additionally, should an accident occur, the cost of human life would be horrendous.

    Ms. Kreel said that the Variance does not meet the Juneau Coastal Management Program, however, a finding of significant public need can be made. Without the tree removal, public safety is compromised and there is no feasible and prudent alternative to meet the public need for safety.

    Variances are intended for situations where there are unique physical features or extraordinary situations. The airport certainly presents such a situation. The space, safety and visibility requirements associated with the operation of an airport are different from all other uses.

    Staff recommendation: that the Board of Adjustment adopt the director’s analysis and findings and determine that criteria 1-6 found in Section 49.20.250 are met and grant the Variance as requested. This Variance will allow the removal of trees within the 50-foot setback of Jordan Creek and future trimming of vegetation within the 50-foot setback to a height of 6 feet. This recommendation is made subject to the following conditions:

  4. Willows shall be planted within the area between Ordinary High Water and to within 5 feet of the top of the dikes under supervision of a trained horticulturist or landscaper. The willow shoots used shall be at a minimum, 1/2 inch in diameter, 3 feet long and planted 6 to 10 feet apart, or seedlings may be used. Existing willows, which are retained, may be used instead of planting new shoots. The planting shall be completed within 18 months of cutting the trees.
  5. No stumps within the dike shall be removed.
  6. The trees shall be felled away from the stream and to the extent feasible, removal of the trees shall be done by equipment stationed outside of the dike. Logs or construction matting shall be used under any heavy equipment used within the dike in order to minimize ground disturbance.
  7. Jordan Creek shall be kept free of garbage where it runs through airport property.
  8. Future trimming of vegetation, subsequent to the tree removal, shall be done by hand tools so as to not cause erosion or significant ground disturbance.
  9. The trees shall be felled and removed under supervision of CBJ Engineering Department in order to ensure that they are felled away form the stream and removed in a manner, which causes the least ground disturbance.
  10. Mr. Pusich raised the issue of tree topping. When the idea was contemplated, at what height were they to be topped? Ms. Kreel stated that evergreens can be cut up to 50% of their length, and then the top branch must be tied up so its cone-shaped growth continues.

    Mr. Bavard observed that the trees in the photo exhibits appeared to tower over the 30' high hangars, and he doubted that there were many trees that could be topped to reduce their height to six feet. Ms. Kreel stated that the six-foot height applied to willow and smaller alders.

    Allington added that if the maximum tree height that the airport wanted were six feet, all of the conifers would be killed. Ms. Kreel concurred that the airport wanted the tree height low for safety concerns.

    Mr. Bruce asked if the airport wanted the maximum tree height to be six feet because it was cheaper to maintain. He noted that the hangars in the vicinity were 30 to 40 feet high and if duress were an issue, then an airplane was more likely to hit a hangar than a tree.

    Mr. Allington asked if the bird habitat would be enhanced with the planting of trees? Ms. Kreel said this had been debated. It is thought that the willows might increase the numbers of smaller birds but not attract the larger birds. She suggested that Ben Kirkpatrick from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game or the airport staff might shed light on the dynamics.

    Public Testimony:

    Allan Hesse, Manager of the Juneau International Airport, came forward to field questions.

    Mr. Allington asked Mr. Hesse to elaborate on what height is actually needed to achieve a measure of safety? Mr. Hesse reminded the Commission that the airport was trying to solve several problems with the tree removal, not just the visibility problem. The choice bird habitat that Jordan Creek provides is his chief safety concern. If Mr. Hesse had his way, the area in question would be reduced to grass, but in the interest of compromise, he has agreed to the willow mitigation plan. If the undergrowth and tree cover were removed, he was confident that the larger birds would not seek cover in the portion of Jordan Creek within the airport perimeter. In addition to the removal of vegetation, they are considering installing a wire netting over the creek bed.

    Mr. Bruce referred to the Variance application, where Mr. Hesse mentioned that if denied, there would be a danger to public and private aircraft users including Alaska Army National Guard. Was the Alaska Army National Guard at a particular risk? Mr. Hesse said they utilize the area of zero visibility frequently.

    Mr. Sanford asked Mr. Hesse to discuss the CBJ's efforts to minimize the bird problems. Mr. Hesse described a recent project that filled in the Jordan Creek dredge pond and the removal of Mountain Ash trees that encircled the parking lot. As well, the airport is working with surrounding businesses to address their trash storage deficiencies.

    Ms. Gladziszewski asked the airport manager to discuss the nature of the bird problem. Mr. Hesse distributed a booklet, Wildlife Strikes to Civil Aircraft, 1990-99. It illustrates quite well what risks airplanes are subject to as a result of birds.

    Birds collide with airplane engines and cause crashes.

    Ralph Sanford, the Operations Manager who is also responsible for wildlife control at the airport stepped forward to answer this question. Mr. Sanford had carried out bird control at the airport for 20 years. He described the secluded estuary that Jordan Creek offered herons and eagles. The birds would fly real low, from that estuary, across the runway towards the refuge. In the past, they have tried to top the trees, but that caused the lower reaches of the trees to bush out.

    Ben Kirkpatrick¸ the Juneau Area Habitat Biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, stood in for his colleague, Katherine Pohl, who attended the site visit with the Wetlands Review Board. Her comments were distributed to the Planning Commission and entered as testimony. Reading from Ms. Pohl's letter, he states that the airport hasn't presented adequate documentation to support its request to remove the trees. Herons and eagles will continue to use the stream if the trees are removed, and it may even change their flight and resting areas to further compromise airport safety. Jordan Creek has important rearing habitat for coho, pink salmon, Dolly Varden, char and cutthroat trout, which in the past few years has seen a precipitous decline. Largely because of the forested buffer, the airport reach of Jordan Creek is now the most important portion of the lower Jordan Creek. Loss of this habitat will contribute to the decline. As well, groups such as Trout Unlimited and the Mendenhall Watershed Partnership are planning extensive restoration projects to Jordan Creek. It is counterproductive to those efforts to permit the destruction of the forested buffer.

    In conclusion, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game requests that the Planning Commission allows only the topping of trees needed by the control tower and requested by the FAA. Given the lack of evidence concerning the need for removal, there is no justification for this level of disturbance and resulting loss of habitat value within a key rearing area. He also pointed out that the airport proposes to clear 1/2 mile of Jordan Creek, which far exceeds the reasonable need to protect visibility. Mr. Kirkpatrick disputes the assertion that the bird problem will go away. In fact the clearing may introduce other species such as gulls into the area. The damage to Jordan Creek is not a worthwhile tradeoff.

    Mr. Kendziorek asked Mr. Kirkpatrick to clarify the point that the clearing may result in a worsening of the bird hazard because there are more gulls that eagles and herons? Mr. Kirkpatrick didn't think that the problem would be worse, but one problem would be replaced with another.

    Mr. Allington asked if the trees were removed, willows put in and netting placed across the creek, wouldn't that solve the bird problem? Mr. Kirkpatrick said it may reduce the perching eagles, but it wouldn't keep the herons out of the creek. He added that by filling in the dredge pond, the airport has gone a long way to solve the bird hazard.

    Mr. Sanford asked if fish lay eggs in the airport stretch of Jordan Creek? Mr. Kirkpatrick indicated that most fish travel higher up the creek to lay eggs.

    Mr. Bruce noted that the plan proposed is an all or nothing situation. Did Mr. Kirkpatrick believe that selective removal and topping could solve the safety issues raised by the airport? Mr. Kirkpatrick was willing to work with the airport staff to come up with an idea. He noted that bird hazing had increasingly become more effective and that was probably the best chance for real results.

    Mr. Pusich said that there are problems with both sight distance and actually viewing the birds in the estuary. Would limbing the trees up to 6 or 8 feet in conjunction to topping the trees solve these problems? Mr. Kirkpatrick thought that limbing the trees was a good idea.

    Sam Capp, Cascade Street, is a resident of the airport area and a member of Trout Unlimited, Raincountry Flyfishers and the Mendenhall Watershed group. He also owns a small airplane that is stored at the airport. Mr. Capp was frustrated by the inconsistency of trying to protect the streams and then trying to destroy the buffers. He also believed that the trees provide sound insulation for the neighborhood. He explained that there are many locations around the airport that are out of view of the airport tower and the tower is always talking to people that they cannot see.

    He didn’t think that the drastic measures proposed by the airport were warranted and he cautioned that once a large tree is cut down so that a building could be developed, that tree is gone forever. Mr. Capp also presented a letter from Trout Unlimited, in opposition, that he wanted to be entered into the record.

    Allan Hesse, airport manager returned to rebut comments made by Sam Capp. He stated that there are instances when the airport tower cannot view activities on the ground. When that unsatisfactory event can be controlled, i.e. by cutting down trees, it should be done. He reminded Commissioners that there were more safety issues for them to address than just visibility. He quoted from the FAA's Wildlife Strike book,

    "it’s widely recognized that the threat to human safety and health from aircraft collisions with wildlife are increasing. To date, more than 400 people have been killed in these types of accidents."

    He urged the Planning Commissioners to error on the side of human safety. He assured them that a lot of effort and thought has gone into preparing hazing and other types of wildlife control measures. He recalled the crash of the military jet in Anchorage that resulted in the death of 24 people. He felt that this situation is inevitable and they worry about it on a daily basis.

    Mr. Hesse raised the issue of Trout Unlimited and the Mendenhall Watershed's work on restoration of Jordan Creek. He noted that there is a debate waging within those groups on whether or not Jordan Creek can remain a viable stream. They've also discussed relocating the stream from the airport property for a variety of reasons: habitat, conflicts with the airport, flooding, etc. Because these issues are being looked at, to say that no action should be taken today is a mischaracterization of what is occurring.

    Mr. Allington noted that in recent years, there seems to be an increase in "on the taxiway" accidents. Is this a result of visibility problems? Mr. Hesse said that visibility is a contributor to the problem. He recounted a story where two helicopters at the Juneau International Airport ended up nose to nose, under the direction of the tower. If the trees were not obstructing the visibility of the air traffic controller, he would have seen the helicopters.

    Mr. Bruce thought that selective cutting and topping could correct the line of sight issue. Mr. Hesse indicated that most of the trees would have to go, to solve the visibility problems. Mr. Bruce asked if it were an ease of management concern that was driving this. Mr. Hesse said that they are always interested in cost, but safety is the main factor driving the proposal.

    Mr. Allington asked Mr. Hesse to explain the circumstances that surrounded the filling in of the dredge pond. Mr. Hesse indicates that three and a half years ago there were two incidences where herons collided with jets. The heron’s flight originated from the dredge pond. The permit to fill the dredge pond was issued two years ago.

    Ms. Gladziszewski asked if the airport had any scientific evidence on whether or not removing the tree buffer would have the desired effect. Mr. Hesse never imagined that the bird problem would go away, but the tree removal would enable airport staff to manage the bird problem.

    Ms. Gladziszewski asked if there was a solution other than total removal of the trees? Mr. Hesse said that solving any one of the safety issues would be a benefit to the airport. However, by removing the trees, Mr. Hesse believed all three goals could be met.

    Mr. Bruce asked for an explanation of the bird hazing that occurs at the airport. Mr. Sanford explained that each day he checks the area and by the end of the day, he has checked power lines and the creek bed several times. He told the Planning Commission about the removal of 129 mountain ash trees from the airport property. While it was upsetting to everyone, it was a critical solution to a very serious problem with the crows and ravens. Three months before the trees were removed, a fully loaded Alaska Airlines jet was landing in Juneau. Suddenly, all that the pilot saw out of his window was an ocean of black crows. Today, you do not see the ravens and crows at the airport in the numbers that they once congregated in. If the cover to Jordan Creek is removed, airport staff could control the area 100 percent better. If the cover were eliminated, the birds would stop using the area.

    Mark Schwann, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, added his comments to the record. He noted that Mr. Hesse testified of his desire to see Jordan Creek be gone from the vicinity of the airport and that made him sad. He thought that the birds would always be out there. He also found the absence of pilots at the meeting interesting.

    Mr. Kendziorek asked for Mr. Schwann's opinion on how the tree removal would affect flight patterns of birds? Mr. Schwann didn't think that herons would be effected. If the area were enriched with willows, warblers and sharp shinned hawks and a lot of gulls and ravens could be attracted.

    Mr. Bruce understood that the airport anticipated the birds would still use the area, but the tree removal would improve their ability to see the birds and then flush them out.

    Mr. Sanford said there had been discussions about hooking the watershed of Jordan Creek over to Duck Creek in the vicinity of Nancy Street. Mr. Schwann said that it would be a shame to de-water the lower reaches of Jordan Creek. He hasn't heard of this discussion recently.

    Mr. Kendziorek suggested an alternative to the Variance would be a better solution. For example, a plan that included removing some of the trees where appropriate, topping trees where appropriate, planting willows and limbing trees from the bottom up. Would the airport consider withdrawing the Variance request and agree to an alternative plan?

    Mr. Bavard said his experience with topping limbing of trees that you end up with very bushy hedges. The bushier undergrowth would then provide the maximum amount of cover for the birds. Considering the safety concerns expressed by airport staff, he wanted to move forward with the Variance.

    Mr. Kendziorek is concerned with safety as well, but a less draconian option could achieve the same result. He wanted the airport to explore other options such as a combination of selective removal, topping and limbing.

    Ms. Kreel said that she had discussed those options with airport staff as she conducted her investigation. As well, the Wetlands Review Board considered this during their site visit. It wasn't pursued because airport staff didn't feel that all of their objectives would be met. The Wetland Review Board, which has an advisory role (but lacked a quorum at the sight visit), considered the Variance at length. They determined that a loss of habitat and shade would result. The impact to the creek, east of Crest Street, would not be dramatic because many of the trees were outside of the dike. They commented that the willows east of Crest Street might provide more cover, whereas there isn't much cover now. They also discussed re-channelizing or lying logs the stream to possibly provide for better fish habitat. The alternative ideas all had their pros and cons, but both measures would have required additional permits from the Department of Fish and Game and the Army Corps of Engineers.

    Ms. Gladziszewski did not think that enough information was known to justify moving forward with the Variance. There would be certain degradation of the stream habitat and uncertain results with regard to solving the bird problem. Is the removal of all the trees worth that? Can selective cutting and limbing achieve their safety issues?

    Commission Action:

    Motion: by Mr. Allington, to approve VAR2001-00007 and accept the findings and recommendations, including modified Condition No. 1.

    Mr. Allington spoke in support of the Motion, stating that the compromise that was reached by airport and CDD staff was adequate and that the human safety concerns must take priority over environmental concerns.

    Mr. Pusich indicated that this Variance was a challenge for him. He asked what was important to the community? Unfortunately, public safety needs outweigh the balance of the habitat of Jordan Creek on the airport property. He is sorely aware that once the trees are gone, they are gone forever. It is important that the benefits to bird management are enhanced in the wake of the sacrifices. Mr. Pusich said he would support the Motion.

    Mr. Kendziorek is equally concerned about safe air travel. He also believes that there is an alternative to the option presented. Reluctantly, he did not support the Variance as it is written and he wanted the options to be fully explored. The Planning Commission was obligated to find the best solution for the community. If the Commission votes "no" they are not saying "no" to safety, they are saying "no" to this very specific plan and that a better plan was available.

    Ms. Gladziszewski also encouraged the Commission to find another solution. She suggested that the alternatives be explored between the Department of Fish and Game and the airport staff. Perhaps, ultimately all the trees must be removed, but atleast the less drastic measures were given a chance.

    Mr. Sanford doesn’t want to lose the estuary nor does he relish the loss of fish habitat. Out of necessity, the airport was built in a wetland where problems presented by the fish and birds are going to be encountered. He supports the Variance as presented because he is fully aware of the danger the bird hazard poses to public safety.

    Mr. Bruce agreed that this Variance is a difficult issue. The conflict lay with the richer an estuary is, the more birds there are. The more birds there are, the greater the risk to human life. He believes that the Planning Commission must error on the side of human safety. He didn’t think the airport staff claimed that the birds will go away with the removal of the trees, rather staff could see the birds in the creek and carry out their hazing campaign.

    Prior to the vote, Ms. Kreel recommended Condition No. 7, "Willows shall reviewed annually for three years to assure minimum 50% survival. The applicant shall replant as needed to assure 50% survival."

    Mr. Allington accepted that as a friendly amendment.

    Roll Call Vote:

    YEAS: Allington, Bavard, Bruce, Dybdahl, Pusich, Sanford
    NAYS: Gladziszewski, Kendziorek
    Absent: Vick

    The motion carries, with a vote of 6 to 2.

    VAR2001-00008

    Variance request to relocate the CBJ gravel pit scales and approach ramp 33 feet from the Ordinary High Water Mark of Lemon Creek, where the Code requires 50 foot setback for all development.

    Location: 01800 ANKA STREET
    Applicant: THE CITY & BOROUGH OF JUNEAU

    Staff report: Ms. Kreel presented her report to the Planning Commission. Currently, the weigh station is located on private property adjacent to Lemon Creek near Costco. The property owner intends to develop the land that the current weigh station sits, so a new location is needed. The proposed site is on the existing haul road used to access the CBJ gravel operations. The new location will not involve any removal of vegetation because the site is a previously developed roadway. The existing haul road was developed within the 50 feet of the setback years ago prior to the current regulations. The proposed project will not increase the impacts.

    As stated, since the proposed development will be on a previously developed area, and there will be no additional habitat impact and no greater erosion and therefore it did comply with the Juneau Coastal Management Program.

    Staff recommendation: that the Board of Adjustment adopt the director’s analysis and findings and determine that criteria 1-6 found in Section 49.20.250 are met and grant the variance as requested.

    Mr. Allington asked if Lemon Creek were an anadromous stream. Ms. Kreel indicated that it was, and that a 50-foot setback is required on catalogued adadromous streams.

    Mr. Pusich asked what the setback is for the weigh station at its current location? Ms. Kreel said the existing site was not evaluated for this Variance, but she didn’t think that it wasn’t within 50-foot setback.

    Ben Kirkpatrick, with the Department of Fish and Game, testified of his concerns with the project. Lemon Creek is not only an impaired water body; there is actually a rehabilitation plan in place for the Creek. As it were, a 50-foot setback is the least that the CBJ can offer the Creek. Although Mr. Kirkpatrick hasn’t visited the proposed location, he is very familiar with the area generally. In the area, there are large patches that have no vegetation and there is severe bank erosion occurring on Mr. Horecny’s property. Mr. Kirkpatrick believes that steps could be taken to stabilize this bank. Whether or not this would be done exactly adjacent to where the proposed project would be located, he did not know. He didn’t object to the scales going in, he only requested that some mitigation measures be established for the site.

    Mr. Kendziorek asked if staff had conferred with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game with regard to this Variance? Ms. Kreel indicated that typically staff does dialog with Fish and Game, but in this situation, because the weigh station site was on industrial property that was developed, and there was no additional impact, the Variance was expedited with Fish and Game getting notice the day before.

    Mr. Kendziorek asked Mr. Kirkpatrick to elaborate on Conditions that the Planning Commission might attach to the Variance that might ameliorate the impacts to Lemon Creek. Mitigation might include, stabilizing the banks, planting some willow trees, removing the spoil piles?

    Mr. Kirkpatrick believed that the spoil piles have been resolved, but revegetating the area would be a step in the right direction.

    Mr. Pusich asked what impacts would be specifically related to the scale installation? Mr. Kirkpatrick indicated that the loaded trucks would have to drive to the scales. By the nature of the operation, excess sedimentation would go into Lemon Creek.

    Mr. Allington suggested that some type of grassy cover would be beneficial. Mr. Kirkpatrick suggested that either grass or willow would work.

    Mr. Bruce thought that there were already willows growing on the bank in the proposed location of the scales. Mr. Kirkpatrick said willows were growing in certain places, however in other places they are failing along with the eroding bank. Since the road is so close to the river, and an increase in truck traffic is expected, it would be difficult to revegetate the area.

    Mr. Bruce asked if a berm would satisfy concerns. Mr. Kirkpatrick indicated that it would be helpful.

    Ms. Kreel indicated that a berm would be a good way to have mitigation that is directly related to the project. She reminded the Planning Commission, that the CBJ did not own the 50-acre parcel of land. While it would be good to revegetate the entire bank, it isn’t in scale with the proposal. Having said that, the berm would be a step in the right direction.

    Mr. Pusich asked how long would the berm be? The length of the scale? Or the length of the road?

    Mr. Kirkpatrick said that he would be available to visit the site with CBJ Engineering to establish what the best solution would be.

    Tad Fujioka, CBJ Engineering, came forward to answer questions. Currently, CBJ trucks departing the pit do not pass over the portion of roadway where the scales are to be relocated. However, future gravel operations will use this roadway as the gravel pit expands into the valley. Mr. Fujioka said the bank is well vegetated with alder trees and it is armored with large rock. Obviously, the pit scales would not be put into a location where they would be washed away into the stream. As well, Mr. Fujioka thought that there was an existing vegetated berm in the area.

    Mr. Bavard asked how long the scale could be expected to remain at the new location. Mr. Fujioka said that it could be 3-5 years, depending upon the project demands.

    Mr. Sanford noted that the scale might be there longer than 3-5 years, since the CBJ was looking at developing even more pit area in the valley. Mr. Fujioka said that this was the primary advantage to relocating the scale at the proposed site.

    Mr. Bavard noted that the existing road that travels up the valley is basicly a non conforming road that was built years ago. Mr. Fujioka agreed.

    Commission Action

    Motion: by Mr. Kendziorek, that the Planning Commission approve VAR2001-00008 and accept staff’s analysis, findings and recommendations.

    In addition, Mr. Kendziorek suggested amendments: that during the construction of the project, as appropriate, that the banks be stabilized where necessary, that they insure that there is a vegetated berm to protect Lemon Creek in the area of the scales, that willows and other vegetation, as appropriate be planted. That with the final design and construction, that the applicant work to reduce sedimentation and any oily waste from the trucks.

    Mr. Bavard asked if bank stabilization referred to the entire bank of Lemon Creek or just in the area of the scales. Mr. Kendziorek said just in the immediate area of the scales, if it is appropriate.

    Mr. Pusich said that Mr. Fujioka testified that the bank is stable and it is secured by rip rap. Mr. Kendziorek stated that if what is in place is adequate, then the applicant has met the Condition and there is no problem.

    Ms. Easterwood asked for clarification on each item.

    Mr. Kendziorek restated the amendment proposing the following Conditons:

    1. If necessary, the banks in the area of the work of the scales be stabilized.
    2. The applicant insures that there is a vegetated berm in the area of the scales, to protect Lemon Creek from runoff, sedimentation and oily waste from the trucks.
    3. Willows and other revegetation be done, as appropriate, in the area of the scales, if it is not there now.

It would be up to staff to determine what remains to be done, Mr. Kendziorek stated.

Roll Call Vote:

YEAS: Allington, Bavard, Bruce, Dybdahl, Gladziszewski, Kendziorek, Sanford
NAYS: None

Absent: Vick

The Motion was approved, unanimously.

X. OTHER BUSINESS – None

XI. DIRECTOR’S REPORT

Ms. Easterwood reported that the Assembly heard the Malick appeal and decided to remand the application back to the Planning Commission. The Assembly did not see substantial evidence in the record to support the denial. The matter will be reheard in its entirety at a later date, perhaps in April.

The Golf Course is on scheduled and will be heard at a Special Meeting on March 20, 2001.

XII. REPORT OF REGULAR AND SPECIAL COMMITTEES

XIII. PLANNING COMMISSION COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS

Mr. Dybdahl announced that there would be a joint meeting of the Planning Commission with the Assembly on Wednesday, March 7th at 5 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers.

Mr. Pusich commended everyone for their thoughtful work on the airport Variance. Those issues are always difficult, and he appreciated everyone’s comments.

XIV. ADJOURNMENT

There being no other business and no objection, Chair Dybdahl adjourned the meeting at 11:00 p.m.