The Juneau Field of Fireweed

The Issue

The Juneau wetlands/uplands battle is raging yet again. A developer wants 46 acres of his property rezoned to industrial and commercial. Many in the community consider it valuable upland, wetland, habitat, and viewscape land, iconic to Juneau and to Juneau’s visitors. The possibility of a land swap has been suggested and debated – see this editorial by Jon K. Tillinghast. There is a map below, and related documents to view at the bottom of this page.

The Honsinger Pond Fireweed Field - Photo by Mark Kelly

Click to enlarge: The Honsinger Pond Fireweed Field – Photo by Mark Kelly

Current Events:

Updated September 3rd, 2015  Assembly upholds decision, denies appeal.

From the Juneau Empire, September 2nd, 2015, by Sam DeGrave

“…With a 5–4 vote, the Assembly backed the Planning Commission’s decision not to rezone the famed “Field of Fireweed” per Bicknell Inc.’s request. About two years ago, Bicknell submitted a request asking the Planning Commission to rezone the field across from Fred Meyer, near the east end of the Juneau International Airport runway, for a mix of industrial, light commercial and rural reserve usage. All 82 acres of the field are currently zoned as rural reserve.

The Planning Commission denied the request, and Bicknell appealed. After the Assembly’s decision Monday, the appeal is dead. Bicknell will not be able to make another such appeal for at least a year, according to city code….”

Updated January 15, 2014  Rezone again denied, see below.

Update January 5th, 2014

Excepted from Juneau Empire – Read the full article here

More than a year since the application was introduced, the City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission voted to uphold their previous decision to deny the rezone of the “Field of Fireweed” near the airport during a standing-room-only meeting Tuesday.

Land owner Bicknell, Inc., applied to rezone the field for industrial development in December 2012. Since then, community members have come out in droves to Planning Commission meetings to speak against the rezone. Tuesday was no different.

“This is our fourth time packing the place,” resident Mark Kelley said after the decision.

Patricia O’Brien has been heading up a movement to preserve the fireweed field since the beginning of construction company’s application process. She last addressed the commission at the Dec. 10, 2013, meeting, when the rezone was voted down 5-2, but then put up for reconsideration by commission vice-chairman Dennis Watson.

The movement to reconsider bumped the issue to Tuesday’s meeting. But the rezone denial was upheld, with commissioners Nicole Grewe and Karen Lawfer, as well as chairman Mike Satre, voting against reconsideration. Watson and Ben Haight voted for reconsideration. Bicknell could decide to appeal the commission’s decision.

“Obviously, we’re pleased,” O’Brien said. “The public was heard. The public opposition to the rezone was upheld.”

Coverage by KTOO
By Casey Kelly, KTOO Juneau
Posted on January 15, 2014 

Juneau wildlife enthusiasts got their wish Tuesday as the city Planning Commission opted not to take another look at a proposal to rezone a privately owned 82-acre field that’s a popular spot for birders.

About three dozen members of the public packed the Assembly Chambers to see if the Planning Commission would put the rezone request back on the table. Many consider the field owned by Bicknell, Inc. to be an extension of the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge.

On a 5-2 vote last month, the commission denied Bicknell’s request to allow a mix of commercial, industrial, and light development on the property just southwest of Juneau International Airport.

Tina Brown, president of the local Alaska Wildlife Alliance chapter, says the commission made the right decision.

Read the entire article at KTOO

Update December 20th, 2013

Excepted from Juneau Empire – Read the full article here

There will be three new faces on the city’s Planning Commission next month when the hotly contested “Field of Fireweed” area rezone is reconsidered.

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly voted 5-4 Tuesday to reappoint current commissioner Ben Haight and name Gordon Jackson, Bill Peters and Paul Voelckers to the Commission effective Jan. 1.

Incumbents Nathan Bishop and Jerry Medina had reapplied for the commission but were replaced by Jackson and Peters.

The change comes amidst a hotly-contested rezone application by Bicknell, Inc., to rezone and ultimately develop a parcel of land near the airport known as the “Field of Fireweed.”

Bishop and Medina joined with Haight and two other commissioners to vote against the rezone at the Planning Commission’s Dec. 10 meeting, according to minutes posted on its website.

Juneau resident and activist Karla Hart was at that meeting and left after the five-to-two vote because, she thought, the issue had been decided.

“You wouldn’t call for reconsideration if it’s a 5-2 vote,” Hart said.

But just before the meeting adjourned, the minutes show that Commissioner Dennis Watson, the vice-chair and one of the two who voted for the rezone, moved for a reconsideration of the motion, which had occurred about halfway through the three-hour meeting.

“The majority of the public had left,” Medina said. “I was kind of surprised when it was brought up there at the end.”

The circumstances, coupled with Bishop and Medina not being reappointed to the Planning Commission, have caused Hart to question the integrity of the process.

Read the entire article at Juneau Empire

Update December 12th, 2013

Bicknell loses second rezone attempt

Report from KINY Radio
Another attempt by Bicknell, Incorporated to win a rezone of nearly 83 acres in the area of Honsinger Pond has failed.

After considerable discussion and deliberation, Community Development Director Hal Hart said the Planning Commission voted 4 to 2 with one abstention. The proposal needed 5 votes to pass.

Hart says that decision could be appealed to the Assembly.

Update November 28th, 2013

Planning Commission delays two rezoning votes

From a report By MATT WOOLBRIGHT,  JUNEAU EMPIRE, Nov 28th, 2013

A standing room-only audience stayed in the Assembly Chambers more than four hours Tuesday night as the Juneau Planning Commission heard public comment and debated a pair of contested rezoning applications. In the end, both items were shelved for later meetings…

…At least 50 members of the public attended the meeting to oppose the efforts of Bicknell, Inc., to rezone and ultimately develop the land. There have been, and currently are, efforts to purchase the land from the company to secure its long-term function as a natural relief for Juneauites and visitors. However, to date the company and prospective buyers have not agreed on a price — a fact that many opponents pointed to when asking the commission to reject the application.

Read the report at Juneau Empire

 Earlier Events

There is a public hearing before the Juneau Planning Commission on this issue scheduled for November 26th, 2013, at 7:00 PM, in the Juneau Assembly Chambers.

Your comments count!  Please take a fresh look at what this area means for living here, tourism, conservation – and write. The attachments on our isseus page will help. Numbers count! So do the variations in your perspective and expertise!

You may e-mail comments to Beth McKibben at preferably by Friday noon, November 22nd, but not later than Tuesday noon November 26th. Attend the hearing at 7 PM November 26th in the Assembly Chambers.


Click to enlarge - The property in question is shown in black.

Click to enlarge – The property in question is shown in black.

  • In December 2012, Bicknell Inc. attempted a zoning change on 82 acres of land including Honsinger Pond, that Bicknell had recently purchased. They withdrew the application before the hearing. Fifty nine citizens opposed the change in written comments.
  • On April 4, 2013, Bicknell Inc. presented a proposal to amend Comprehensive Plan Map G on the same 82 acres as a precursor to a second request for a zoning change. Seventeen additional citizens submitted opposing comments. The Planning Commission denied the request in a close vote.
  • A total of 76 citizens opposed the re-zone, or the map change, or both.
  • On June 10, 2013, Bicknell Incorporated appealed the Planning Commission denial of its proposal to the Juneau Assembly.
  • On July 23, 2013, photographer, Mark Kelley, intervened stating, “This field of fireweed is an important part in the promotion of tourism in Juneau, Southeast Alaska and Alaska. I have an invested interest and unique perspective to this appeal.”
  • On August 7, 2013, City Attorney, Jane Stebens, representing the Planning Commission and Attorney, Daniel Bruce, representing Bicknell Inc. signed a stipulation for dismissal of the appeal based on procedural confusion regarding Comprehensive Plan map amendments. They further agreed that Bicknell Inc. could re-instate its original or a modification of the rezone application on the property.
  • · On 9/8/13 Bicknell Inc. submitted an application for a rezone of the property similar to its map change request. The entire property is currently designated Rural Reserve. Under the proposal, 26 acres would be re-zoned from Rural Reserve to Commercial, and 20 acres would be re-zoned to Industrial use.
  • There is a public hearing on this application scheduled for November 26th, 2013.

Hearing notice-Click to enlarge


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