City and Borough of Juneau, 155 South Seward Street, Juneau, Alaska 99801

 DATE:                  March 4, 2005

TO:                       Planning Commission

FROM:                 Nathan Bishop, Planner
                            Community Development Department

FILE NO.:            SUB2004-00043

PROPOSAL:           Preliminary plat approval of Lena Point Heights, a major subdivision of RCA Lena Point Tract C Lot A, into 22 lot residential lots.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Applicant:                          Bruce Griggs

Property Owner:               Point Lena LLC

Legal Description:          RCA Lena Point Tract C Lot A

Parcel Code No.:           8-B33-0-101-011-1

Site Size:                          17.08 acres

Zoning:                             D-3

Utilities:                            City water is available

Access:                            Lena Loop Road , and the new NOAA bypass road

Existing Land Use:        Vacant 

Surrounding Land Use:      North - D3 Residential, Vacant

                                                South - D3 Residential, FAA mostly vacant

                                                East    - D3 Residential, Vacant

                                                West   - D3 Residential, AT&T Communications Facility

BACKGROUND

On July 30, 2004 staff met with the applicants to discuss their proposal and give them direction as to what additional items would need to be prepared for the official submittal. Since then the applicant has been regularly corresponding with staff to discuss their proposal and needed revisions.

The Subdivision Review Committee looked at the project on August 11, 2004 and staff had asked them to speak to several issues:

1. Did all lots need to be accessed via an internal street or would it be acceptable if a number of the lots fronted on Point Lena Loop Rd. ?

2. Was the proposed use of the minimum rectangle section of code applicable to this situation? Or did they need to meet the panhandle requirements for those lots with narrow frontages?

3. What information would be necessary to show that on-site sewage treatment was viable in this location?

In answering question #1, the Committee was unanimous in their opinion that some lots could access directly onto Lena Loop if ADOT would issue the necessary driveway permits. In addition, they felt that there should be common driveways for lots that did front on Lena Loop Road, such as is required for panhandle lots.

After discussing the differences between the minimum rectangle and the panhandle ordinance, the Committee felt that the use of the minimum rectangle would yield results that would better utilize the available land.

Question #3 yielded the obvious answer: provide as much information as possible.

On November 4, 2004, the applicants submitted their project drawings and descriptions and paid the fees for an official application to subdivide the subject parcel.

For more than ten years, it has been the Assembly’s desire to subdivide and dispose land at Point Lena. CBJ Lands Department currently has an application pending for a subdivision of 52 acres, creating 48 lots. When combined with the 22 lots proposed at Lena Point Heights there would be a total of 70-lots platted. In1996 CBJ commissioned a study to evaluate two alternatives for sewer systems in this area, on-lot treatment with a central collection and marine outfall, and a community wastewater treatment plant.   The study concluded that due to the soils, maintenance issues and pollution concerns on-site treatment with, a collection and outfall system would be the preferred option. However, various concerns that surfaced since this study was completed have driven the city to re-evaluate the merits and appropriateness of the various different waste treatment options. Today the proposed developments include individual on-site sewage treatment and disposal (aeration plants and drainfields).

On-site sewer regulations have gaps in oversight, and have limited areas of multiple coverage. Locally, it is estimated that about 20-60% of on-site sewers are failing (an absorption field that does not absorb water or a tank without a functioning aeration unit). This level of failure is consistent with national data.

On-site sewer can work in theory, but has often failed in practice. In both Bonnie Brae and Bayview subdivisions, the city eventually had to accept ownership of their systems at large capital expense. There are opportunities to improve on-site sewer at all levels (design, construction/installation, management, operations, and regulatory oversight), however, this requires new regulations to be drafted to address these issues.

In light of this situation, a joint meeting of the Committee of the Whole (CBJ Assembly) and the Planning Commission was convened on January 31, 2005, to determine if on-site sewer is a sufficient system to protect public health, in an economically feasible manner, or if an alternative system would better meet the community's needs.

Prior to the meeting staff from the CBJ Engineering, Lands and Resources, Public Works, and Community Development Departments met over the course of the month, to review the merits of various sewage systems. These meetings resulted in the production of technical papers that were used as the basis for the presentation to the joint committee meeting (See Attachment "F").

The meeting resulted in the following motion, by Mayor Botelho: " The COW recommends to the Assembly to authorize city staff to look at the Lena Subdivision, with Options 2 & 6 as alternatives for wastewater treatment ."   The motion was carried without any objection. Implicit in this motion, was the understanding that the proposed subdivisions would include the recommended measures to improve whichever option was chosen.

 

ANALYSIS

Hillside Development

The proposed project meets the criteria requiring a hillside development endorsement for much of the access roadway. The CBJ Land Use Code contains the following provisions regarding hillside development:

Article II. Hillside Development

49.70.200 PURPOSES. The purposes of this article are:

(1)              To ensure that hillside development provides erosion and drainage control to protect adjoining parcels;

(2)              To protect waterways from sedimentation and pollution;

(3)              To minimize injury or damage to people or property from natural or artificial hazards in hillside development; and

(4)              To minimize any adverse aesthetic impact of hillside development.

49.70.250 STANDARDS FOR APPROVAL. Hillside development shall meet minimum standards regarding roads, weather, sediment and peak discharge.

49.70.260 CRITERIA. The Commission shall consider the extent to which development meets the criteria regarding soil erosion, existing vegetation, contours, time of exposure and soil retention, replanting, drainage, foundations, very steep slopes, soil retention features, and wet weather periods.

49.70.270   CONDITIONS ON APPROVAL. The Commission may place conditions upon a hillside development endorsement as necessary or desirable to ensure the spirit of this chapter will be implemented in the manner indicated in the application.   Fulfillment of conditions shall be certified by the engineer.

Analysis of Hillside Endorsement

The applicant has submitted information regarding topography, site development plans, wetlands, and other information that are the basis of review for the hillside development review (See Attachment "A"). Detailed information on some aspects of the project will be required for final review and issuance of a grading permit.

Standards for Approval

The Standards for Approval address roads, weather, sediment, peak discharge and other issues.   The following analysis and comments are based upon the applicant’s information and review and recommend-ations by the CBJ Engineering Department.

(1)  Roads . The proposed roadway would be constructed as a city street having a twenty eight-foot traveled way.   The applicant indicates the road would be gravel, with a 6-inch base course of compacted D-1.

The CBJ Engineering Department reviewed the proposed road and recommends that the Planning Commission require the developer to pave the proposed roadway. The majority of the proposed roadway has a grade of 12%, which is the maximum grade allowed for this type of roadway. The Engineering Department is concerned that winter maintenance of the roadway will be difficult if it is not paved. Given the length of the hill, they are concerned that public safety will be compromised if the dirt road standard is used for this roadway.

(2)   Weather . The proposed schedule for tree/vegetation clearing for the subdivision road would be during the winter months of 2005. Stump removal, clearing and grubbing, and blasting would follow in the late winter and spring months. If very wet soil conditions occur during the period of these activities, the work may be halted at the discretion of the CBJ Head Regulatory Engineer.

(3)   Sediment . Sediment and erosion control plans have been explained in general terms with the application submittal. Details of erosion/sediment control devices have also been submitted. The control devices as proposed appear to meet the need for sediment and erosion control on the areas of steep slopes. These controls will require inspection and maintenance on a regular basis. It is anticipated that conditions of the grading permit will specify additional erosion controls on exposed slopes.

(4)  Peak Discharge . Peak discharge information was not submitted with the application.   However, control measures are designed into the sediment and erosion control plans that will serve to buffer peak discharge. Prior to issuance of a grading, or PFT Permit, the applicant will need to submit a detailed report showing discharge quantities so the adequacy of the proposed drainage structures can be reviewed.

Criteria

The commission shall consider the extent to which the development meets the following criteria:

( 1)              Soil Erosion. Soil disturbance and soil erosion shall be minimized and the effects thereof mitigated.

A relatively large amount of earth will need to be excavated and filled to accomplish the proposed development. A plan has been submitted which shows how erosion would be minimized and sediment controlled. The grading plan will need to use the guidelines submitted to show specific requirements and locations of these devices. Soil matting or hydro mulching on cut and fill slopes will be required immediately after slopes are exposed or graded and left in place until vegetation has been established.   However, much of the excavation is within bedrock and will not present an erosion concern.

(2)              Existing Vegetation. Depletion of existing vegetation shall be minimized.

The vegetation within the construction limits of the right-of-way (ROW), in the area below the drainfields, and below the driveways requiring blasting, will be removed.

(3)              Contours. The developer shall re-contour the finished grade to natural-appearing contours which are at or below thirty percent or the natural angle of repose for the soil type, whichever is lower, and which will hold vegetation.

The hillside development areas include roadways, steep driveways and house pads, all of which will eliminate natural contours. The applicant’s erosion control plan along the roadway indicates final grading of cut and fill slopes that would be less than the angle of repose. Much of the excavation is through rock; as such, there will be little opportunity for revegetation.

(4)              Time of Exposure and Soil Retention. The developer shall minimize the period of time that soil is exposed and shall employ mats, silt blocks or other retention features to maximize soil retention.

An erosion control plan was submitted with the application. Covering of the slopes with matting material or hydro mulching immediately after grading slopes will be required until vegetation is established.   Sedimentation devices will be required and maintained throughout the project construction period. The grading permit will identify specific inspection and maintenance scheduling of sedimentation control devices.

  (5)             Replanting. The developer shall mat, where necessary, and plant all exposed soil in grass or other soil-retaining vegetation and shall maintain the vegetation for one full growing season after planting.

Soil matting and seeding will be required to stabilize slopes after exposure. This must be done as soon as slopes are graded if during the planting season (April 15 to August 15). If it is not practical to seed during the planting season then temporary matting or hydro mulching will be required for slope stabilization. A planting bond will be required to assure replanting, as necessary, to fill in any bare spots that might occur one year after a full growing season.

(6)              Drainage. The developer shall minimize disturbance to the natural course of streams and drainage ways. Where disturbance is unavoidable, the developer shall provide a drainage system or structures which will minimize the possibility of sedimentation and soil erosion on-site and downstream and which will maintain or enhance the general stream characteristics, spawning quality, and other habitat features of the stream and its receiving waters. Where possible, development shall be designed so lot lines follow natural drainage ways.

The proposal is to assure drainage across the development site will follow, as near as possible, the most natural course of the existing drainage. Most of the drainage within the project limits is subterranean. There is a small ephemeral drainage northwest of the cul-de-sac; this drainage will continue to follow its natural course. The proposed roadway is largely situated between two ridges; as such, it is in a natural drainage course.   Run off from this development will flow in the ditches adjacent to the road. Final engineering and detail drawings of the drainage structures will be a requirement of the grading or PFT permit.

(7)              Foundations. The developer shall ensure that buildings will be constructed on geologically safe terrain.

At this time there are no buildings proposed within hillside endorsement areas.

(8)  Very Steep Slopes. The developer shall minimize excavation on slopes over thirty percent.

The proposed roadway will transect slopes with grades in excess of 30 percent, however, as the cut will be through bedrock there is no concern over slope stability and there is little opportunity for minimization. Special care and inspection during construction within these areas will be required. Specific special inspection requirements will be identified on the grading permit.

(9)              Soil Retention Features. The developer shall minimize the use of constructed retention features. Where used, their visual impact shall be minimized through the use of natural aggregate or wood, variation of facade, replanted terraces, and the like.

Cut and fill slopes will be graded to appropriate angle of repose. As currently proposed, no special retention features are required to meet the proposed angle of repose.

(10)            Wet Weather Periods. The developer shall minimize exposure of soil during the periods of September 1st through November 30th and March 1st through May 1st.

The soils layer in the proposed road corridor is very shallow and will be required to be stabilized as soon as practical, following clearing and grubbing.

Conditions on approval

The commission may place conditions upon a hillside development endorsement as necessary or desirable to ensure that the spirit of this chapter will be implemented in the manner indicated in the application. Fulfillment of conditions shall be certified by the engineer. The conditions may consist of one or more of the following:

  (1)             Development schedule. The commission may place a reasonable time limit on or require phasing of construction activity associated with the development or any portion thereof, in order to minimize construction-related disruption to traffic and neighbors or to ensure that the development is not used or occupied prior to substantial completion of required improvements.

  (2)             Dedications. The commission may require conveyances of title or other legal or equitable interests to public entities, public utilities, a homeowners' association, or other common entities. The developer may be required to construct any public facilities, such as drainage retention areas, to City and Borough standards prior to dedication.

  (3)             Construction guarantees. The commission may require the posting of a bond or other surety or collateral providing for whole or partial releases, in order to ensure that all required improvements are constructed as specified in the approved plans.

(4)  Lot size. If justified by site topography, the commission may require larger lot areas than prescribed by zoning requirements.

 

RECOMMENDATION REGARDING THE HILLSIDE ENDORSEMENT

We recommend that the Planning Commission grant the requested hillside endorsement. The endorsement would allow development of an access roadway in hillside areas for the proposed subdivision.   The endorsement should be subject to the following conditions:

1.  Prior to any site preparation or construction activity, the applicant shall obtain a grading permit or public facility and transmission permit (pft), issued by the Community Development Department.

2.    Prior to commencement of any grading on the roadway alignment, the applicant shall identify and flag the limits of cut and fill areas for review and approval by CBJ Engineering Department.

3.    Prior to issuance of a grading permit or pft, the applicant shall submit a detailed development schedule for excavation, utility installation, erosion/sediment control device installation, slope protection/vegetation placement, and project completion.

4.    Prior to issuance of a grading permit or pft, the applicant shall submit a detailed erosion/sediment control plan which identifies types and locations of control devices, how these would be monitored and maintained, and how construction would be phased such that large areas of soils are not exposed at the same time.

  5.    At the CBJ Engineer’s discretion, the grading/excavation work may be halted during periods of very wet soil conditions.

  6.    Prior to issuance of a grading permit or pft, the applicant shall submit a detailed site grading   plan which shows how excavation and exposure of disturbed soil would be minimized and how the effects thereof would be mitigated.

7.    If any material is moved and stockpiled on the project site, the applicant shall identify such locations and develop appropriate measures for soil erosion/sediment controls which shall be reviewed and approved by the CBJ Engineering Department.

  8.    The applicant shall place soil matting or hydro mulching on all cut and fill slopes immediately after slopes are exposed or graded. All soil matting and hydro mulching shall be left in place until permanent vegetation has been established.

9.      Prior to issuance of a grading permit, a bond in the amount of $3,000 shall be submitted to CDD to guarantee maintenance of erosion control devices.

10.    Prior to issuance of grading permit, a bond in the amount of $2,000 shall be submitted to CDD to guarantee the replanting of vegetation as necessary to fill in any bare spots that might occur one year after a full growing season.

11.  All mulching and planting shall be in accordance with CBJ Standard Construction Specifications.

Zoning

This Parcel is within the D-3 Zoning district. The D-3 residential district is intended to accommodate primarily single-family and duplex residential development at a density of three dwelling units per acre. Title 49 describes these D-3 zoned lands as being primarily outside the urban service boundary, where public utilities are not provided.   However, this is not an accurate depiction of the situation today. There is a large acreage of D-3 lands that have been served with the full range of public utilities. The density reflects the existing pattern of development of properties in the district. There is a limited amount of D-3 zoned lands located within the urban service boundary. These are lands for which a lower density is deemed appropriate or, in the case of transition zones, where the zoning wall be changed to a higher density when sewer and water are provided.

Lots within this zoning designation must be configured such that they meet the standards shown below in Figure 1.

Minimum Lot Size 1

D-3

 

Permissible

Uses

12,000

 

 

Duplex

18,000

 

 

Single-family detached, two dwellings per lot

24,000

Minimum lot width

100'

 

Common wall dwelling

 

Minimum lot depth

100'

Figure 1

Lot size in the proposed subdivision range from 25,000-square feet to 50,653-square feet, with the median lot being approximately 31,000-square feet, as such all lots exceed the minimum area requirements shown in Figure 1.

With the exception of lots 13, 14, and 21, all lots meet the remaining minimum dimensional standards. While lots13, 14, and 21 do not meet the minimum lot width requirement, the director has determined they do meet the following criteria, which provide an alternative standard:

49.15.460(4)

Subdivision lots shall meet the minimum dimensional standards established by chapter 49.25, article IV (Figure 1), provided that in cases of difficult topography or other circumstances rendering compliance impracticable, the director may approve other configurations if the lot:

           (a)              Meets the minimum lot size requirement;

           (b)              As drawn, is capable of containing a rectangle having two sides equal in length to the minimum lot width requirement and two sides equal in length to the minimum lot depth requirement;

           (c)              Has direct and practical access to a street maintained by an agency of government; and

          (d)              Has at least one practical building location.

Applying this provisional section of code, all proposed lots conform to the requirements for the D-3 zoning district

Drainage

Uphill lots fronting on Island View Drive are situated such that all run-off will flow down the driveway ditches or over the undisturbed portion of the lot into the ditch adjacent to the street.

Lots on the downhill side of Island View Drive will maintain the natural drainage pattern for that portion of the lot not being developed.   Run-off from these areas will largely flow into the wetlands down slope. The runoff from the developed portion of these lots will flow to the drainage ditch adjacent to Island View Drive .

As this street has a grade break approximately 2/3 the way up it, the runoff will flow in two different directions. Drainage from lots 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 will flow to the north, where it will be directed into a drainage easement that follows the natural contours of the land until it reaches the ditch along Point Lena Loop Rd.

Runoff on the other side of the break point will flow North, in the ditch on both sides of Island View Drive until intersecting Lena Access Road. At this point the water will either continue down the access road to Point Lena Loop Road , or it will cross under the access road and follow an existing drainage down the hill and outfall onto the beach. This proposed drainage way is suitable; however, it will need further review prior to final platting to determine what improvements will be required to accommodate the additional flow.

Wetlands

The wetlands in the Lena area are outside the boundaries of the formally categorized wetlands in the Juneau Wetland Management Plan (JWMP; this is an officially adopted plan within the JCMP). The JWMP ranks wetlands into categories based on value and function, and provides specific management protocols for each wetland category.   When wetlands fall outside of the JWMP mapped area, we turn to the enforceable policies within the main body of the JCMP. The JCMP states in Section 49.70.950(c)(3) that:

“wetlands and tideflats shall be   managed so as to assure adequate waterflow, nutrients, and oxygen levels, to avoid the adverse effects on natural drainage patterns, the destruction of important habitat, and the discharge of toxic substances.”

The Wetland Review Board (WRB), in its advisory capacity, held a meeting to review the proposed subdivision plans on December 6, 2004. Based on the Boards discussion and recommendations the applicant has modified their proposal by removing a drainage easement that ran through the center of a wetland unit on the subject parcel.

Based on their discussions of this proposal, and previous recommendations for the city's adjacent subdivision, staff will recommends the following measures be recommended as conditions of approval to minimize wetland impacts:

1Develop Best Management Practices (BMPs) to maintain the integrity, stability, and flow paths of the ephemeral streams draining residential properties.

2. Establish a 25-foot vegetative, no-development buffer between Point Lena Loop Road to filter runoff and prevent erosion and sedimentation along the drainage ditch, and preserve the existing wetland unit in this location.

The Army Corp of Engineers has reviewed the applicants' proposal (See Attachment "B") and on November 30, 2004, they issued a "Provisional Permit" (See Attachment "C"). This does not authorize any fill activity; it only acts to inform the applicant that they will issue a permit after the proposal is reviewed and approved by those agencies participating in that Alaska Coastal Management Program (ACMP).

One of the primary agencies responsible for ACMP reviews is the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Office of Habitat Management and Permitting. On November 5, 2005, DNR indicated they did not have any objection to the project as proposed (See Attachment "D").

Access

Access for the subdivision will be via Island View Drive , a new road off the NOAA access road for 14 or 15 of the lots, and via Point Lena Loop Road for 7 or 8 lots.   Lot 15 could be served by a driveway off of Island View Drive or off the Point Lena Loop Road depending on the building site chosen.   The NOAA access road was built to reduce the impact of additional traffic to the NOAA site on local residents.   The City and ADOT/PF have completed projects to improve vehicle access through intersections with N. Glacier Hwy and Auk-Nu.

A number of the lots on Island View Drive (lots 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, and10) will require a substantial amount of blasting to provide vehicular access and building pads.   Staff has discussed this issue with the developer and proposed that they install the driveways and building pads for these lots during the subdivision development. While the developer agreed this would be their intent, staff recommends making this a condition of approval to assure that this is not overlooked. Doing this work as part of the subdivision protects adjacent property owners from the potential impacts of blasting after the subdivision is completed, and partially developed. Staff will recommend this as a condition for preliminary plat approval.

Traffic Analysis

Discussions with CBJ staff and Alaska Department of Transportation personnel led to the determination that the additional traffic from the proposed subdivision would not create a situation that warranted a traffic Analysis. The addition of 22-lots accessed primarily from an internal collector street would have a negligible impact on traffic in the vicinity.

Water and Sewer

In 1999 the City brought public water to the area through construction of a 1 million gallon water tank and pump system.   This provides amply supply for this subdivision and future development of public and private lands.   Water pipes were installed during construction of the NOAA Access road to provide water service to the subject parcel. While water pressure is marginal for meeting both the plumbing code requirements and fire code requirements, the applicant has submitted an engineered solution that adequately addresses both concerns.

The original subdivision application was accompanied with a wastewater disposal review by Engineering Analysis Applications. This report outlined the variety of possible systems that could be used to treat sewage on the proposed site (See Attachment "E"). However, it was lacking the necessary specificity and thorough review. Rather than request additional information at this time, we decided it would be best to wait until after the Joint Committee meeting, whereupon we expected to have a better idea of how to direct them.

Following the joint meeting of the Planning Commission and the Assembly COW, staff met with the applicants to give them direction on how they should be moving forward. At this meeting we (John Bowman, Rorie Watt, and myself), discussed what additional material needed to be provided to complete the review of their proposal for on-lot sewage treatment system. Mr. Bowman followed this meeting up with a letter indicating the issues that still needed attention (See Attachment "G").

Some days later, the applicant provided the necessary plans illustrating on-lot absorption beds with a secondary polishing field in the right-of-way (See Attachment "H"). While the engineering department believed this to be a viable system, they did not believe it was appropriate, or a matter of good public policy to allow for such facilities in the ROW. Following this difference, the applicants requested a meeting with Roger Healy, the Director of the CBJ Engineering Department. At this meeting, Mr. Healy stated that it is his opinion that adequate treatment and absorption can be done on the individual lots, therefore, there is no need to extend the polishing fields beyond the lot lines. However, it is the responsibility of the applicant to provide the analysis to verify this belief.

On February 25, the developer submitted a revised plan and supporting documentation (See Attachment "I") showing an on-site septic system, fully contained on the individual lots within the subdivision. At my request, Mr. Bowman reviewed the new septic system proposal (See Attachment "J"). In his review, he indicates that the sewage effluent will be sufficiently treated by the proposed method such that "no health risk remains" by the time it emerges. Furthermore, he believes "the systems in the fractured rock areas will not have sewage effluent daylight down the slope."  

As indicated earlier, the failure rate of on-lot treatment systems in the Juneau borough is between 20-60%.   Mr. Bowman indicated that the useful life of the proposed absorption field is approximately 15 years.   As with most systems, they have a limited lifespan and cease to function properly after that time elapses. In this situation, the problem is that failure affects more than those individuals that own the system. When absorption fields fail, pathogens can enter surface water flows and create a health risk. As an analogy, consider the repercussions of allowing cars on the street with out any taillights. What happens when no one (other than the owner) is responsible for ensuring this situation is remedied?

For this reason, the Assembly and this Commission directed us to allow on-site sewage treatment, or a community absorption bed with individual treatment plants, while at the same time telling us to pursue the necessary regulatory framework to ensure that these problems are avoided. At the joint meeting, Mayor Botelho said the concern about relying on individual homeowners to maintain systems is a valid concern and should be addressed in any proposal.

In an attempt to meet this need, the developers also submitted a proposal to form a neighborhood association and impose a restrictive covenant on each lot to oversee installation, operation and maintenance of on-lot package wastewater treatment systems at Lena Point Heights Subdivision (See Attachment "K"). I have asked Deputy City Attorney, Peggy Boggs, to review this document and give me a written opinion on how enforceable such covenants are. While I have not yet received her written comments I have discussed the issue with her. Ms. Boggs believes that neighborhood covenant are set up for regulating issues that the municipality does not regulate and does not necessarily want to be involved in. Such issues may include: pet ownership, house size, shape, and color, or a variety of other things. Covenants create mini-governance in the absence of a municipal interest. So by their vary nature, they preclude the involvement of any other outside interest trying to enforce, change, or preserve their intent.

When Bayview and Bonnie Bray subdivisions were platted, the developers created neighborhood associations and restrictive covenants to manage sewer treatment, and water distribution. Today, after years of operation failing systems and after perpetual lobbying from members of both associations, CBJ has assumed responsibility for these systems at a significant cost to the community.

It is clear that covenants do not work to regulate complicated systems that require enforcement and financial contributions from the participants. While there are ways to force reluctant participants to contribute their fair share, they generally take a lot of time. Liens often require waiting for the owner to sell the house, and suing is often quite expensive in and of itself and requires time.

For these reasons staff does not believe that we can rely on restrictive covenants to ensure that sewer systems are operating effectively, and maintained adequately. Covenants can be a great starting point, if there is some other device (municipal regulations, and enforcement) to ensure compliance in the event the association is not capable of the task.

We have explored the idea of using conditions to regulate the O&M of septic systems but it becomes so cumbersome it is not practical, nor effective, if it is even possible. For instance, imagine we have a condition requiring each lot owner to annually submit an inspection report to CBJ, detailing the condition of their septic system, and a requirement for biannual verification of pumping and cleaning. What happens when the owners cannot get anyone to inspect or pump their systems? What happens when the individual property owners complain they are being treated unfairly? Other on-lot neighborhoods do not have to meet this onerous requirement. These are just a couple examples illustrating the problems with using conditions for this purpose; there are multitudes of other scenarios that have the same predictable outcome. Using conditions in a situation where regulations are more appropriate, is a sure way to cause more problems than you solve.

The applicant has done an exemplary job of trying to solve this issue with the tools they have to work with; the problem, nonetheless, persists. On-lot wastewater treatment systems have a limited lifespan, which is often reduced by inadequate O&M. Failure of these systems often goes unnoticed and uncorrected for many years. Failed systems pose a health risk to the community.

In 1983 the CBJ commissioned a study of on-lot sewage disposal in the Mendenhall Valley and North Douglas . While this report did not specifically analyze the subject site, it does speak to on-lot treatment in difficult terrain, such as the shallow bedrock found in the proposed development.   What follows are pertinent excerpts from that report; some of it is a bit tedious to read but it provides a solid background for decision-making:

 

Constraints on Wastewater Disposal Within the Mendenhall and North Douglas Areas Juneau Alaska .

After reviewing the results of the geotechnical study, it was found that over half of the study area should be classified as unsuitable for either standard or special septic tank-soil absorption systems. Systems more complicated than these are considered by Arctic Engineers to be unreliable as to effluent quality or treatment ability due to lack of continuous required maintenance, especially for individual systems serving only a single residence. The use of more complex systems should be limited to specific installations where maintenance can be assured and the effluent quality can be monitored.

The results of the questionnaires returned and an inventory of the attitudes of some of the people living within the study area have revealed a lack of understanding on the proper operation of on-site systems. Less than 10% of the returned questionnaires indicated septic tank pumping on a regular basis. Similarly, most individuals utilizing aerobic units thought that no pumping of sludge was required with those units. This miss-information will eventually cause soil absorption system failures because of the carry-over of sludge solids from the initial treatment unit into the drainfield. This problem can reduce the ability of a properly designed system to effectively treat and dispose of the wastewater flow. There are several regulatory and operational items that can be used to reduce the amount of system failures cased by lack of proper maintenance. These include required septic tank pumping every two years and inspection and sufficiency tests required prior to selling the property or adding improvements.

The City and Borough of Juneau should take an active role to help reduce problems and possible environmental degradation from the improper use of on-site systems in developments. This part needs to be integrated from zoning of the land all the way through to use and maintenance. The following action plan can be utilized as a whole or in part. The most effective action will, require enactment of the entire plan.

Planning and Zoning

1.  A minimum lot size of at least 40,000 square feet should be utilized where on-site wastewater disposal is to be used, and no sewer service is planned.

2.  Areas indicated as marginal for on-site systems should be discouraged from development that has to depend on such systems for some time to come. Cluster system developments and other systems based on an engineered, large area system should be encouraged when these areas develop without sewer service.

3.  Areas designed as unsuitable should not be zoned for development without sewer service. Exceptions should only be allowed after a thorough engineering study of the area to be developed. Such development should be limited to cluster or similar type systems.

Development

1.  Subdivisions designed for the use of on-site systems should not be approved without the following criteria being met:

       a)  Minimum lot size of 40,000 square feet.

       b)  Soil boring logs, from borings taken on each lot, indicating acceptable soils and- other conditions required for the on-site system.

       c)  Percolation test results from a soil strata acceptable for use as a soil absorption system base layer - one test per 2 l/2 acre area (or portion thereof) for generally usable areas, one test per lot for marginal areas.

       d)  An indication on each lot of the system that will work .   properly as an on-site system.

       e)  Cluster system developments should have a stamped engineering report describing the soils, system to be used, development method, and percolation rates. Soil borings (to at lest 6 feet below the drainfield) must be from each corner of the drainfield area and additional ,borings in the middle when the field is over 50 feet in either square dimension. Percolation tests should be required from at least one-third of the soils boring points.

2.  The City and Borough of Juneau should either hire a qualified individual or retain a qualified engineering firm for review of development plats dealing -with on-site disposal systems.

3.  Requirements should not be relaxed for simple subdivisions of one lot into two, or other “isolated” subdivisions.

Construction

1.  Building permits for new construction using on-site systems should require at least the following items prior to allowing construction:

       a)  A plat indicating the construction layout. showing the on-site system and the area to be kept in reserve for two alternate soil absorption systems.

       b)  A soil boring (or pit) log from the initial site and each of the alternate sites for the soil absorption system indicating acceptable conditions.

       c)  A percolation test of the soil strata to be used, taken within 50 feet of the initial soil absorption system.  

       d)  A system design performed by a Civil/Sanitary Engineer registered within the State of Alaska , based upon the design criteria listed in Description of On-Site Systems.

2.   Building permits for add-on or revision construction that add water use appliances or rooms should require an adequacy test to insure sufficiency of the existing system. Tests should be certified and monitored by authorized personnel (can be within private enterprise).

3.  Construction inspection and sign-off of on-site systems should be based on the following items:

       a)  Construction inspectors are trained and qualified personnel . Private enterprise could be used if classes and certification systems were implemented.

       b)  Standard systems are inspected at the critical points of initial excavation, (to examine soils for type and periodic saturation) immediately after the piping is set, (to check for proper slope, alignment, and materials) and during initial backfill over the piping.

       c)  Alternative soil absorption systems should have continuous inspection until contractors are sufficiently familiar with the systems to only require periodic inspections similar to standard systems.

4.  Construction must provide reasonable and usable access to the initial treatment unit (septic tank . . .) for ease of pumping.

  Operation and Maintenance

1.  A public education program to inform rural residents of the proper maintenance and care of on-site systems should be initiated. Public broadcast systems, educational programs, seminars, public meetings, and mail-outs should all be utilized to inform the public of the requirements of their systems and the consequences of improper operation.

2.  On-site system owners should be required to pump and remove bottom sludge from their systems at least once every two years. This will involve a cataloging of systems, a notification, and a certification system.

3.  System owners not supplying pumper certification that the system has been serviced would be subject to a fine and the costs of having their system pumped after a grace period of 2-3 months had passed.

Education

1.  A public education program is essential to the proper operation of the action plan.

2.    A class should be provided to educate and certify engineers, contractors, inspectors, and pumpers in the techniques and methods to be used for designing, constructing, inspecting, and maintaining on-site systems. Such classes should be in the form of a 3-day to 1-week seminar and should be provided on an annual basis. Re-certification every two to three years is a suggested requirement.

Conclusion

Those areas that are to be zoned for on-site system type disposal of wastewater should be required to have a minimum of 40,000 square feet. Areas that have bedrock within ten feet of the surface and have additional water users down gradient should have the minimum lot size expanded by at least 30-50%. This would provide some protection to down gradient users.

***End of Report excerpts ***

 

Some of the concerns the above report was attempting to minimize have been mitigated by the availability of city water to the adjacent and the proposed subdivision. However, other factors still remain: the risk of contaminated effluent entering surface waters with contagious pathogens, and the contamination of natural systems with poorly treated sewage effluent.

One of the largest problems with failing systems is an aesthetic consideration; poorly treated effluent stinks, and no one wants it flowing in their ditches, much less their back yards. This is not meant to diminish the very real health and environmental considerations previously mentioned, but functionally, the problem generally surfaces when someone gets a whiff of it. It is difficult to identify the source of gastrointestinal diseases, but it is very easy to conclude that the source of the stink in your ditches is coming from failed sewage systems.

Trying to distill a problem into a manageable set of assumptions is critical to clear decision-making. For that reason I have outlined what I believe are reasonable statements based on the information I have presented (and some I haven't):

•  The recommended 40,000 square foot minimum lot size may not be necessary if city water is available.

•  Sewage systems will fail much sooner if they are not properly maintained.

•  Sewage systems around the borough are not being adequately maintained.

•  Operation and Management oversight is vital to the longevity of the system.

•  Sewer systems that have failed have the potential for environmental, health and aesthetic impacts.

•  Previous experience with neighborhood associations and restrictive covenants have failed to deliver predictable outcomes that can be relied on.

•  CBJ has had to intercede to correct deficiencies in on-site sewage treatment at great expense (by extending city sewer).

•  CBJ has a shortage of available lots

•  Land is at a premium and driving the cost of housing up

•  One system is easier to maintain and construct than twenty two

•  There should be enough room for 2 more drain field sites  

Keeping these considerations in mind, I reach the following conclusion:

•  It is not necessary to increase the lot size if an adequate oversight program is instituted.

•  An O&M oversight program must be run by the municipality if it is to be effective.

•  A clustered sewage system is preferable to twenty-two independent systems.

•  With the proper regulatory oversight program, individual on-site sewage treatment systems could work in this situation.

Therefore, I recommend that the Planning Commission approve this subdivision only if they adopt one of the following approaches:

1.  Require that the final plat not be recorded until CBJ adopts an ordinance regulating on-site sewage treatment.

2.  Require that the final plat not be recorded until the developer reaches a binding agreement with the Public Works Department to provide regular maintenance and inspection services for the subdivision. If you take this approach, I recommend continuing this hearing to allow the developer to pursue this option.

3.  Convince the developer to pursue a clustered sewer system for the entire subdivision. Again, if you take this approach, I would recommend a continuance.

Property Value or Neighborhood Harmony

The proposed subdivision will create lots for residential development, similar to those on the surrounding lots in the immediate area. Many of these lots will be water view properties, and as such will command top dollar on the market place. Generally, lots priced at the top of the market, are built with homes that have a proportional cost, i.e. they will be expensive.   Property values are determined by comparable sales; therefore, it is unlikely this development will negatively influence property values, or be out of harmony with the surrounding neighborhood.

Conformity with Adopted Plans

This development was reviewed for conformity with many of the adopted plans. The Comprehensive Plan designation for this site is Rural/Low Density Residential.   The definition or this designation is as follows:

Rural residential land at densities of one to three dwelling units per acre.

The density of the proposed subdivision is approximately 1-3 dwellings units per acre, therefore, falls well within the range of what the comprehensive plan contemplates for this area.

JCMP Review

As previously mentioned in the wetland section of this analysis, this development will result in disturbances to identified wetland habitat.   Staff has worked with the applicant and the Wetland Review Board to minimize these impacts to the greatest degree practicable. The conditions required for the hillside endorsement, along with best management practices will ensure that this subdivision conforms to the JCMP.

Conditions of Approval - The CBJ Land Use Code allows the Planning Commission to approve a project with conditions in order to mitigate the impacts of the proposed project.   As such, staff has provided a list of conditions that address the potential impacts of the project.

 

FINDINGS

CBJ §49.15.330 (e)(1), Review of Director's Determinations, states that the Planning Commission shall review the Director's report to consider:

1.        Whether the application is complete; and,

2.        Whether the proposed use is appropriate according to the Table of Permissible Uses;

3.        Whether the development as proposed will comply with the other requirements of this chapter.

The Commission shall adopt the Director's determination on the three items above unless it finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Director's determination was in error, and states its reasoning for each finding with particularity.

CBJ ?§49.15.330 (f), Commission Determinations, states that even if the Commission adopts the Director's determination, it may nonetheless deny or condition the permit if it concludes, based upon its own independent review of the information submitted at the public hearing, that the development will more probably than not:

1.        Materially endanger the public health or safety;

2.        Substantially decrease the value of or be out of harmony with property in the neighboring area; or,

3.        Not be in general conformity with the comprehensive plan, thoroughfare plan, or other officially adopted plans.

Per CBJ ?§49.15.300 (e)(1)(A through C), Review of Director's Determinations, the Director makes the following findings on the proposed development:

1.        Is the application for the requested conditional use permit complete?

Yes.   We find the application contains the information necessary to conduct full review of the proposed operations.   The application submittal by the applicant, including the appropriate fees, substantially conforms to the requirements of CBJ Chapter 49.15.

2.        Is the proposed use appropriate according to the Table of Permissible Uses?

Yes.   The proposed subdivision is appropriate according to the Table of Permissible Uses.   The Conditional Use permit is listed at CBJ §49.25.300, Section 25.1 for the D-3 zoning district.

3.        Will the proposed development comply with the other requirements of this chapter?

Yes. The proposed development complies with the other requirements of this chapter. An advertising notice was provided in the Juneau Empire under Your Municipality 10 days prior to the hearing.   A public notice sign was posted on site at least 14 days prior to the meeting and notice was mailed to owners of record for all property within 500 feet of the subject property as required.

4.        Will the proposed development materially endanger the public health or safety?

No . Subject to noted conditions, we do not believe that proposed development would materially endanger the public health or safety; the public health and safety is fully addressed with the required supporting conditions and improvements.   

5. Will the proposed development substantially decrease the value of or be out of harmony with property in the neighboring area?

No.   Based on the previous analysis, the proposed development is in harmony with the scale and use of surrounding residential properties. The development will be servicing an affluent market and will have a substantial vegetative screen between it and the adjacent properties; as such, it is not anticipated to decrease adjacent property values.

6. Will the proposed development not be in general conformity with the land use plan, thoroughfare plan, or other officially adopted plans?

No.   The proposed development is in general conformity with the Land Use Code based on the analysis of the CBJ Comprehensive Plan.

7. Will the proposed development comply with the Juneau Coastal Management Program?

Yes. Based on the above analysis and following recommendations from the Wetland Review Board, the proposed development substantially complies with the Juneau Coastal Management Program.

 

RECOMMENDATION

We recommend that the Planning Commission adopt the Director's analysis and findings and grant the requested Preliminary Plat subdivision.   The permit would allow subdivision of RCA Lena Point Tract C Lot A into 22-Residential lots.

  We further recommend that the approval be subject to the following conditions:

1.  Develop Best Management Practices (BMPs) to maintain the integrity, stability, and flow paths of the ephemeral streams draining residential properties.

2.  Establish a 25-foot wide, vegetative no-development buffer, adjacent to Point Lena Loop Road to filter runoff and prevent erosion and sedimentation along the drainage ditch, and preserve the existing wetland unit in this location.

3.  Prior to final platting the developer shall submit plans for utility services, and a detailed drainage report showing peak discharge quantities from the proposed subdivision, and accompanying plans illustrating where the storm water will be routed.

4.    Prior to final platting, all required improvements shall be designed in accordance with the CBJ, and other applicable standards and specifications, as determined by the CBJ Engineering Department.

5.  Prior to final plat recording, the plat shall receive a final technical review by the CBJ Engineering Department to ensure the plat is in conformance with required surveying standards.

6.  All subdivision improvements must be constructed or bonded for, prior to final plat recording.

7.  Prior to any site preparation or construction activity, the applicant shall obtain a grading permit or public facility and transmission (pft) permit, issued by the Community Development Department.

8.  Prior to commencement of any grading on the roadway alignment, the applicant shall identify and flag the limits of cut and fill areas for review and approval by CBJ Engineering Department.

9.  Prior to issuance of a grading permit or pft, the applicant shall submit a detailed development schedule for excavation, utility installation, erosion/sediment control device installation, slope protection/ vegetation placement, and project completion.

10.  Prior to issuance of a grading permit or pft, the applicant shall submit a detailed erosion/sediment control plan which identifies types and locations of control devices, how these would be monitored and maintained, and how construction would be phased such that large areas of soils are not exposed at the same time.

11.  At the CBJ Engineer’s discretion, the grading/excavation work may be halted during periods of very wet soil conditions.

12.  Prior to issuance of a grading permit or pft, the applicant shall submit a detailed site grading plan which shows how excavation and exposure of disturbed soil would be minimized and how the effects thereof would be mitigated.

13.  If any material is moved and stockpiled on the project site, the applicant shall identify such locations and develop appropriate measures for soil erosion/sediment controls which shall be reviewed and approved by the CBJ Engineering Department.

14.  The applicant shall place soil matting or hydro mulching on all cut and fill slopes as soon as practicable after slopes are exposed or graded. All soil matting and hydro mulching shall be left in place until permanent vegetation has been established.

15.  Prior to issuance of a grading permit, a bond in the amount of $3,000 shall be submitted to CDD to guarantee maintenance of erosion control devices.

16.  Prior to issuance of a grading permit, a bond in the amount of $2,000 shall be submitted to CDD to guarantee the replanting of vegetation as necessary to fill in any bare spots that might occur one year after a full growing season.

17.  All mulching and planting shall be in accordance with CBJ Standard Construction Specifications.

18.  Preliminary Plat approval is subject to CBJ adopting an ordinance addressing the maintenance deficiencies of on-lot sewage treatment systems, or until the developer reaches a binding agreement with CBJ, whereby CBJ maintains and inspects the systems on an appropriate schedule.

19.  With the exception of the sewage treatment plant, which will be installed under the direction of the lot purchaser, the developer shall install or bond for the installation of septic systems, (as detailed in plans prepared by Admiralty Engineering and titled: septic system typical section, dated FEB, 2005) on all lots prior to final plat recording.

20.  Preliminary Plat approval is subject to the developer constructing a secondary polishing field and flow testing it to show that it has adequate percolation.

21.  All driveways and house pads requiring excavation in bedrock shall be completed or bonded for prior to Final Plat approval.

 

Full Staff Report in PDF Attachment A Attachment B Attachment C
Attachment D Attachment E Attachment F Attachment G
Attachment H Attachment I Attachment J Attachment K

 

 
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