Lengthy agenda faces CBJ Assembly COW

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Onsite consumption of marijuana, a new name for the Willoughby District, and a new venture for Eaglecrest highlighted the agenda of the CBJ Committee of the Whole.

    The Committee continued work on senior housing.  The fiscal year 2020 budget includes $1.5 million to purchase property in Vintage Park for a senior assisted living housing project.  They also want to determine tax abatements for the project.  The property measures 8.68 acres and is zoned light commercial and mixed-use which permits single-family and duplex residential, and professional offices not more than 2,500 square feet.

    In 2019, the CBJ provided tax exemptions for 2,167 parcels owned by seniors.  The property value was over $310.6 million.

    The goal of the program is to provide 327 assisted living beds by 2042.

    The CBJ would select the developer based on the vision for the development of the site, team experience, project design and characteristics including site plan and elevations, feasibility based on a demonstrated ability to secure financing for development and operation of the project, operating it long term, and readiness to proceed.

    The CBJ plans to purchase the property for $1.52 million, offer the land to the selected development team through a long-term lease up to 10 years, with the intention to sell at fair market value once the lease is complete.  They would provide tax abatement for the project of over 15 units for 15 years.    The abatement depends on the number of units.  Tax abatement would not include school taxes of 2.65 mills annually.  The project could also be eligible to request up to $50,000 per unit from the Juneau Affordable Housing Fund.

    On-site marijuana

    CBJ Attorney Robert Palmer said the draft ordinance under consideration would allow consumption of marijuana edibles and smoking and vaping of marijuana at retail stores that sell marijuana. 

    For 18 years, the CBJ has prohibited tobacco smoking in enclosed public spaces to protect the public from second-hand smoke.  Marijuana smoking in public is prohibited by state law.  The state does allow smoking of marijuana in an establishment that is freestanding if the smoking is in accordance with Alaska Marijuana Control Board regulations.

    The onsite consumption in Juneau would be allowed in a freestanding retail marijuana store that has a secured consumption area with a separate ventilation system or has an outdoor consumption area that is sufficiently isolated.  Freestanding means a building that is not supported by another structure and does not share ventilation or internal air space with an adjoining structure and smoke from the building cannot travel into the adjoining structure.

    Assembly member Wade Bryson said if the CBJ allows only edibles there will be zero compliance.  "Not one of the retailers are interested in that.  They won't set up a separate room so a couple of customers can pop gum into their mouth."

    He said this will result in people smoking marijuana on the street if special rooms are not allowed.  "They are smoking on the streets, that is why I'm an advocate of onsite consumption.  Even if we only got half of the people smoking off the street we would make a dent."

    The Attorney wrote if the Assembly decides to repeal or amend codes that prohibit marijuana smoking but continue to prohibit tobacco smoking, it could result in litigation.

    Assembly member Mary Becker said she doesn't think the CBJ should make it easier for people to smoke marijuana.

    Assembly member Rob Edwardson said marijuana is legal and the CBJ shouldn't put obstacles in the way of smoking marijuana.

    The group discussed tourists who legally buy marijuana but don't provide them a place to legally smoke the substance.

    Assembly member Loren Jones said the cruise ship industry is not going to be happy if passengers return to the ship in Juneau high on marijuana.  He said it is not allowed on board and the cruise ship staff, many of whom are not citizens, could face deportation if they are found with marijuana.

    The proposed ordinance was sent on to the Assembly for their consideration.

    Willoughby District discussed

    The Committee recommended approval of a resolution to rename the historic Auk Tribe Indian Village located on Willoughby Avenue as the Aak'w Village District.  The resolution was sent on to the Assembly for further action.

    Assembly member Michele Bonnet-Hale said the name of Willoughby Street would remain the same. 

    Assembly member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs said this would be a good gesture to recognize some of the historic significance of the area.

    The area was identified as the Auk Village or the Auk Indian Village from the earliest maps and historical photos and is identified as such on the first survey map of the Juneau Townsite in 1892.

    Audio from Eaglecrest GM Dave Scanlan

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