DATE:                 November 2, 2001

TO:                     Planning Commission

FROM:              Teri Camery, Planner
                           Community Development Department

FILE NO.:         VAR2001-00030

PROPOSAL: A variance for construction of two hangars, 25-42 feet from Jordan Creek where 50 feet is required.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Applicant:                    Ralph Kibby

Property Owner:          Juneau International Airport

Building Owners:          Ralph Kibby and Tim Smith

Property Address:        1745 and 1749 Crest Street

Legal Description:        Juneau International Airport, Block L, Lot 12 & 13

Parcel Code Number:  3-B15-0-101-012-0/013-0

Site Size:                      3,250 square feet for lot 12; 3,000 square feet for lot 13

Zoning:                         I - Industrial

Utilities:                        CBJ Water and Sewer

Access:                        Crest St. right-of-way

Existing Land Use: vacant site filled with compacted gravel

Surrounding Land Use: North - small plane taxiway and small plane tie-downs
                                    South - Jordan Creek slough
                                    East - Lot 14, vacant
                                    West - vehicle access way followed by a line of 6 hangars

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The applicant and building owners propose construction of two hangars. The project will consist of one 65 ft. by 50 foot hangar with a shared interior wall to a second 60 ft. by 50 ft. hangar on a separate lot. The lots are currently vacant. The adjacent area includes the Jordan Creek slough to the south, which is separated by a berm; the small plane taxiway and tie-down area to the north; vacant lot #14 to the east; and a vehicle accessway followed by a line of six hangars to the west (Attachments A and B).

The proposed site and adjacent area to the north was cleared and filled approximately over 20 years ago to create space for the small plane taxiway. The site was previously a forested wetland. The 3 foot berm which separates the site from Jordan Creek was created at that time.

At the west end of the proposed hangars, the distance to the Ordinary High Water (OHW) mark of the Jordan Creek slough is 42 feet. The east end distance to the OHW diminishes to 25 feet. At this time airport management has decided not to develop lot 14, the final surveyed lot at the east end, due to its closer proximity to Jordan Creek. The Juneau Coastal Management Plan requires a 50 foot setback from catalogued streams for all structures (CBJ §49.70.950(c)(7)). Therefore the proposed hangars are subject to a streamside setback variance.


BACKGROUND

Jordan Creek is on the list of anadromous streams to which the anadromous stream setback applies (ADFG catalog number 111-50-10420-0010). A site visit was conducted with airport management on October 9, 2001 to locate the OHW of Jordan Creek and measure the distance from the proposed hangar site. The Corps of Engineers delineated the OHW mark at an earlier time A second site visit was conducted on October 30, 2001 with airport management, a biologist from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and members of the Wetland Review Board. A Wetland Review Board quorum was not present. Comments from two board members are included in Attachments C and D.

The site is reserved as a buildable area for construction of hangars in the Airport Master Plan, which was last updated in 1998. As such, this area will not be reviewed under the upcoming airport Environmental Impact Statement. The site is on the opposite side of the slough, beyond the berm, where a variance for removal of vegetation was approved in January 2001 (VAR2001-00007). In addition to the disturbed area which was cleared for the taxiway, most of the creek bank in the area from OHW to the top of the berm is also denuded.

ANALYSIS

The proposed hangar sites are located between the Jordan Creek slough and the small plane taxiway and tie-down area. The proposed hangars are identical in size to the other hangars in the immediate vicinity, including the line of five hangars directly to the west. The size cannot be reduced and still accommodate aircraft. Moving the hangars outside of the 50 foot setback would require relocating the entire length of the taxiway, since the taxiway must be 75 feet wide and straight, without any zig-zags, according to FAA regulations. Airport management views construction of hangars as an essential service of the airport, and notes that there is currently a waiting list for applicants wishing to buy or lease space for hangars.

The Wetland Review Board and Department of Fish and Game have specific concerns about impacts to Jordan Creek from snow removal. Airport management currently plows the proposed hangar site and taxiway area and dumps the snow along the banks of Jordan Creek, which deposits a significant amount of gravel and sediment into the creek. The Board has identified this practice as a serious threat to riparian habitat and wishes to work with airport management to find a solution. Construction of hangars along this stretch of the Jordan Creek slough would eliminate the need for snow removal with heavy equipment in this area, as snow removal would be minimal along the narrow strip of land between the back side of the hangar and the creek. Though it is not an improvement so much as eliminating a damaging practice, construction of the hangars would nonetheless stop gravel deposits along the banks of Jordan Creek in this section.

Because the area was cleared in the mid 80s, only a limited vegetated buffer of approximately ten feet remains along this stretch of the Jordan Creek slough. The remaining 50 foot buffer is compacted gravel. Construction of the hangars will not impact wetlands or require any removal of vegetation, and will not direct any pollutants or other drainage into the creek. The broad lot on which the hangar site, taxiway and tie-down area is located drains to the north toward the road.

Variance Requirements

Under CBJ §49.20.250 where hardship and practical difficulties result from an extraordinary situation or unique physical feature affecting only a specific parcel of property or structures lawfully existing thereon and render it difficult to carry out the provisions of Title 49, the Board of Adjustment may grant a variance in harmony with the general purpose and intent of Title 49. A variance may vary any requirement or regulation of Title 49 concerning dimensional and other design standards, but not those concerning the use of land or structures, housing density, lot coverage, or those establishing construction standards.

The proposed development was reviewed for:

  1. hardship and practical difficulties resulting from an extraordinary situation
  2. or

  3. hardship and practical difficulty resulting from a unique physical feature affecting only a specific parcel of property, rendering it difficult to carry out the provisions of Title 49.

Staff finds hardship and practical difficulty due to the limitations and inflexibility of surrounding land uses and requirements. The proposed site lies between the Jordan Creek slough and an airport taxiway, which is required to be both straight and 75 feet wide. Pushing the hangars outside of the riparian setback would require realignment of the entire taxiway, which is a safety consideration at best and at worst may not be technically feasible. Staff finds hardship and practical difficulty based on this extraordinary situation. Staff does not note any unique physical features on the parcel. Based on this extraordinary situation, we conclude that this variance request does meet the Grounds for Variances, as established in CBJ §49.20.250 (b). This code provision is required to be met prior to a Board of Adjustment application consideration.

A variance may be granted after the prescribed hearing and after the Board of Adjustment has determined:

1. That the relaxation applied for or a lesser relaxation specified by the Board of Adjustment would give substantial relief to the owner of the property involved and be more consistent with justice to other property owners.

The relaxation applied for would allow construction of hangars of the minimum practicable size and the same dimensions as adjacent hangars located west of the proposed site. A lesser relaxation would either make the size of the hangars prohibitively small for use, or require re-alignment of the taxiway, which must be 75 feet wide by FAA standards. The dimensions of the hangars are based on the lease lot size determined by the Juneau International Airport. Other variances to the streamside setbacks have been granted for hangar construction. Therefore the proposed variance would give substantial relief to the property owner and be consistent with justice to other property owners.

This criterion is met.

2. That relief can be granted in such a fashion that the intent of this title will be observed and the public safety and welfare be preserved.

The intent of Title 49 is established in Section §49.05.100 Purpose and Intent. Those sections, which are applicable to the requested variance, are as follows:

  1. To identify and secure, for present and future residences, the beneficial impacts of growth while minimizing the negative impacts;
  2. To ensure that future growth is of the appropriate type, design, and location, and is served by a proper range of public services and facilities such as water, sewage, and electrical distribution systems, transportation, schools, parks and other public requirements, and in general to promote public health, safety and general welfare;
  3. To provide adequate open space for light and air; and
  4. To ensure that future growth is of the appropriate type, design and location, and is served by a proper range of public services….and in general to promote public health, safety and general welfare.

The stream setback provisions were instituted to protect fish habitat in stream corridors. Since this site has been filled, no additional vegetation will be removed, and drainage will flow away from the creek, we believe this development would occur without negative impacts to the stream, provided certain conditions are met. This addresses goal #1 of minimizing negative impacts. The proposed variance specifically supports goal #4, which encourages beneficial use of the land, and promotes public safety and welfare by preserving the location of the taxiway.

This criterion is met.

3. That the authorization of the variance will not injure nearby property.

No wetlands or nearby property would be injured by authorization of this variance. The proposed hangars will not require any fill or removal of vegetation within the 50 foot setback. The project site is entirely managed by the Juneau International Airport.

This criterion is met.

4. That the variance does not authorize uses not allowed in the district involved.

The Juneau International Airport has authorized use of the property for this purpose. Further, airport hangars are an authorized use in the Industrial zoning district.

This criterion is met.

5. That compliance with the existing standards would:

(A) Unreasonably prevent the owner from using the property for a permissible principal use;

The primary permissible use of the lots in Subdivision L of the airport is hangars. Compliance with the setback would either require the owner to construct a hangar which is too small for an airplane, or require the Juneau International Airport to relocate its taxiway. Neither option is reasonable.

This sub-criterion is met.

(B) Unreasonably prevent the owner from using the property in a manner which is consistent as to scale, amenities, appearance or features, with existing development in the neighborhood of the subject property;

Compliance with standards would prevent the owner from constructing a hangar large enough to keep an airplane. Many other hangars of similar scale have been constructed in the neighborhood of the proposed development, including hangars requiring a variance from the Jordan Creek setback. Therefore compliance with the setback would prevent the owner from using the property in a manner consistent with other development in the neighborhood.

This sub-criterion is met.

(C) Be unnecessarily burdensome because unique physical features of the property render compliance with the standards unreasonably expensive;

The site is level without any unique physical features.

This sub-criterion is not met.

or

(D) Because of preexisting nonconforming conditions on the subject parcel the grant of the variance would not result in a net decrease in overall compliance with the Land Use Code, CBJ Title 49, or the building code, CBJ Title 19, or both.

The area was previously filled and some of the vegetative cover within the 50 foot setback was removed when the taxiway was developed in the early 1980s. However since the lot is undeveloped, no pre-existing non-conforming conditions currently exist specific to these two lots.

This sub-criterion is not met.

6. That a grant of the variance would result in more benefits than detriments to the neighborhood.

Any reduction in the 50 foot setback to anadromous streams has some detrimental impacts by reducing the area for pollutant and sediment filtration which protects water quality. However construction of the hangars, provided that best management practices are followed, will not result in any additional removal of vegetation within the setback since the area is already graveled. Drainage will flow toward the road rather than the creek. Once the hangars are constructed, this section of the creek will no longer suffer from gravel deposits from snow removal. A grant of the variance will benefit the property owners by allowing construction of hangars, and benefit the Juneau International Airport with increased income.

This criterion is met.


JUNEAU COASTAL MANAGEMENT PROGRAM

Relevant coastal management program issues include habitat, coastal resource protection, and land, air, and water quality, and transportation and utilities.

CBJ§49.70.950 (f) requires that structures and foundations located adjacent to cataloged anadromous streams, of which Jordan Creek is one, "…shall have a fifty-foot setback from each side of the stream, where feasible and prudent…" The section also notes that "the setback shall be vegetated or re-vegetated, where feasible and prudent, and such vegetation or re-vegetation shall be kept or arranged to maximize shade in the stream."

Feasible and prudent is defined within the JCMP to mean, "consistent with sound engineering practice and not causing environmental, social or economic problems which outweigh the public benefit…"

Moving the hangars outside of the setback would require re-locating the taxiway, which would create significant safety and engineering concerns if in fact it is even feasible. The proposed construction does not appear to have significant environmental impacts as it does not require removal of vegetation and drainage flows away from the creek. Staff believes that the development meets the definition of feasible and prudent. Additionally, the JCMP sections §49.70.950(a), (b), (c) and (d) apply. The code specifically states:

§49.70.950 HABITAT.

(a) Habitats in the coastal area which are subject to the Alaska Coastal Management Program include (7) Rivers, streams and lakes

(b)The habitats contained in subsection (a) of this section shall be managed so as to maintain or enhance the biological, physical and chemical characteristics of the habitat which contribute to its capacity to support living resources.

(c)(7) Rivers streams and lakes shall be managed so as to protect natural vegetation, water quality, important fish or wildlife habitat and natural waterflow.

(d)Uses and activities in the coastal area which will not conform to the standards contained in subsections (b) and (c) of this section may be allowed if the following standards are met:

  1. There is a significant public need for the proposed use or activity;
  2. There is not feasible and prudent alternative to meet the public need for the proposed use or activity which would conform to the standards contained in subsections (b) and (c) of this section; and

All feasible and prudent steps to maximize conformance with the standards contained in subsections (b) and (c) of this section will be taken.

Construction of hangars meets a significant public need for interior storage of small aircraft, and because the site is tightly located between the airport taxiway and the Jordan Creek slough, staff does not see a feasible and prudent alternative to meeting the public need.

In accordance with the re-vegetation requirement noted above in Section §49.70.950(f) as well as §49.70.950(d), which requires maximizing conformance with standards, we recommend as a condition that the property owner re-vegetate the remaining riparian buffer with native grasses to preserve the filtration and water quality functions of the buffer. Normally we would require re-vegetation with woody vegetation, but in deference to airport safety considerations and the need to minimize bird habitat, we have limited the vegetation requirement to grasses. JIA already has plans to revegetate the streambank from OHW to the berm along the all sides of the slough, according to the conditions of VAR2001-00007.

Airport management wishes to reserve the right to use the widest segment of the remaining 50 foot buffer, outside of the berm and behind the proposed hangar, for parking. We accept this use provided that parking does not infringe on the 25 foot no-disturb zone, as required by code, and that vegetative groundcover is established before parking is allowed in the area.

We also recommend that the owners utilize best management practices during construction of the hangars, to minimize siltation and other impacts to the creek.

Provided that these conditions are met, we have determined that issuance of the variance would comply with the enforceable policies of the Juneau Coastal Management Program, including enforceable policies under Transportation and Utilities, [CBJ §49.55.070, (a) through (j)].

FINDINGS

1. Is the application for the requested variance complete?

Yes. The application for the requested variance is complete.

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

Yes. The proposed development complies with the Juneau Coastal Management Program, provided the conditions listed below are met.

3. Does the variance as requested, meet the criteria of Section 49.20.250, Grounds for Variances?

Yes. The variance meets criterion 1-6, and appears to have minimal environmental impact to the Jordan Creek slough, provided that best management practices are followed during construction and the remaining buffer is re-vegetated with native grasses, per JCMP §49.70.950(d) and (f).

RECOMMENDATION

We recommend that the Planning Commission adopt the director’s analysis and findings and grant the requested variance, which would allow construction of two hangars, 25-42 feet from Jordan Creek at 1745 and 1749 Crest St, with the following conditions:

  1. The remaining riparian setback, from the berm to the hangars, shall be re-vegetated by the property owner to 80 percent cover or greater within two growing seasons with native grasses, pursuant to CBJ Code §49.70.950 (f). Vegetative groundcover must be established before parking is allowed. Parking shall not be allowed within the 25 foot no-disturb zone. The property owner shall plant or bond for the vegetation prior to the issuance of a temporary or final Certificate of Occupancy.
  2. The boundaries of the lots shall be clearly staked and flagged prior to construction. To the extent practicable, equipment shall approach the site and operate from the north end of the lots. All measures shall be taken to avoid impacts outside of the lot within the Jordan Creek setback and the berm shall be maintained at its current height for drainage protection, per CBJ Code §49.70.950(d).
  3. Construction during periods of heavy precipitation must be avoided or halted, to the extent practicable, per CBJ Code §49.70.950(d).
  4. Prior to the issuance of a building permit, the applicant shall submit a drainage and erosion control plan to the CBJ Engineering Department. This plan shall ensure that drainage from the construction site shall be directed to existing drainage routes on the north side of the project site. No new drainages shall be constructed which cause drainage waters to be introduced into Jordan Creek. The applicant shall minimize ground disturbance, prevent and control sedimentation. (Per CBJ Code §49.70.950 (d))