Boarding house meeting draws crowd

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) Montana Creek residents filled the Assembly chambers to oppose a change in use of a single family home.

    After close to two hours of testimony the CBJ Planning Commission denied the conditional use permit.

    The application called for a conditional use permit for the use of a single family residence as a boarding house at 9119 Wolfram Way.  It is a four bedroom home.  The applicant has converted a study into the fifth bedroom.  The home measures 2,428 square feet.  One restroom is being used for the onsite manager.  One bedroom is designated for use as an air bed and breakfast.

    Under CBJ code, a boarding house is defined as a dwelling in which more than two bedrooms are used for commercial lodging provided by the owner or operator who lives on site.  This home has been a rental property since 2013.

    The issue was started by the Community Development Department after the owner began posting rooms for rent on Facebook in January, 2018.  The application for the permit was submitted in August.

    Neighbors opposed the project and raised concerns about noise, litter and crime.  Juneau Police report they have responded to 10 calls for service at the residence since 2016.  On-street parking and snow plowing were other concerns.  Neighbors also claim the project will lower the value of their properties.

    Other concerns were safety for children who play in the neighborhood.

    The CBJ received 26 written comments on the project with only one in favor of the boarding house.

    CBJ Planner Allison Eddins said a study does meet the CBJ development code for a bedroom.    Staff found the traffic impact would be minimal or 16 vehicle trips per day.  The CBJ does not restrict parking on Wolfram Way.

    "Most of the valid concerns of neighbors are based on behavior.  My recommendation can't be based on behavior or on a person who lives there, it is based on the use, and the rules the applicant has submitted," she added.

    Eddins said violation of these rules would result in enforcement by the CBJ.

    Housing Officer Scott Ciambor suggested the CBJ needs 'Airbnb' regulations, and a blighted property ordinance.  He suggested rental regulations be developed should boarding houses become more popular.

    Applicant Kelli Grummett said she is energized to pursue the Tongass House project.  She said the rules are strict and tough for the renters.  "You are renting a private room and I have no access to that without notice.  The common areas are not there's, they are welcome to use it, contingent on them following the rules, clean up after your self and be respectful to others and the neighbors."

    She tried to clarify the 10 police calls and said several were from her trying to evict residents who were not obeying the rules.  She said the litter problem was beyond her control.

    She said bears were hungry this past summer and several garbage cans were hit in the neighborhood.  She said she got on top of the problem after it got into her garbage can.

    "If I have complete control over the property I can do a better job of managing the property," she added. 

    She said the renters there now are good people. The lack of housing has been an issue for Juneau.

    Neighbor Fred Parady said the property has been leased and rented for over a year inappropriately.  He objected to no CBJ regulations for boarding houses and short term rentals.   "I would greatly prefer a single family home to a boarding house."

    Lisa Skiles-Parady said the would gladly welcome a single family dwelling.  She added that the CBJ has no boarding house regulations.  "I would encourage you to get your ducks in a row before you put our community in peril."

    She also questioned why no permit was applied for until after the CBJ learned of the use.

    "This positively reinforces illegal activity."

    Other neighbors said the boarding house was out of character with the neighborhood.

    Ricardo Worl said the neighborhood has been peaceful and safe until this project came.  He said parties, drugs and trash have become common.  "It has disrupted the peace, safety and respect that was once there."

    Arthur Edwards alleged the home was used before as a boarding house.  "It was a nightmare, the parties we saw into the lateness of the night, I wish I would have recorded them, they gave me extreme stress, the language, fire juggling, fire pits, loud use, blatant alcohol use, my concern wasn't only for my family but the people that were there."

    He said noise has gotten better.  He called it a business being moved into the neighborhood and the rest of the neighborhood doesn't matter.

    "I pick up all the beer cans that flow down the drain.  I work hard to maintain my yard and they do not."

    Jaleen Kookesh said she values a safe neighborhood and it is different to have seven tenants as opposed to one family, at one home.

    "You have people living in a home that don't care about the value or taking care of the property that might impact the neighborhood."

    She said this is a neighborhood with families who have invested a lot of money and chose to live in a safe neighborhood.

    "Look at the facts of the history of the home, listen to the people that live near this home.  There will be a civil case on this, I promise you that."

    She said the homes in Montana Creek are very valuable ranging upwards from $450,000 each.

    In other actions the Commission recommended a lease and sale of easements to the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities for culvert rehabilitation located on Glacier Highway.

    They also approved an extension of a conditional use permit for Statter Harbor Improvements at 11520 Auke Bay Harbor Road.  The CBJ Docks and Harbors has had a delay in obtaining state and federal permits for the project.  The project include development of new moorage and loading floats, uplands development, a kayak launch ramp, a restroom and covered shelter area with potential second floor commercial space, and removal and replacement of a section of the moorage facility.  They requested an 18 month extension to the permit.

    They also recommended the CBJ lease up to one acre of city land at the South Lemon Creek Material Source gravel pit to Juneau Composts LLC for a composting facility.  The did recommended the facility be surrounded by electric fence.  Staff said the composting facility could divert food waste from the landfill.  The lease term is for five years with up to 35 additional years of possible extensions.

    Applicant Lisa Daugherty, Owner of Juneau Composts LLC, said she plans to hire employees at the new site.  She said the facility could be expanded in the future.  She said smell is not an issue if the proper composting techniques are used.

    Diversion of trash into landfills have become a focal point of waste management in many states and municipalities.

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