Tuesday’s Haines Borough Assembly meeting featured several commendations and kudos, a few passed motions, and a 90-minute executive session. The assembly voted to approve an ATV tour permit for Alaska Mountain Guides, and introduced an ordinance that would give heli-ski companies more time to request changes to the ski map.
The four-hour, 15-minute meeting started with a list of borough employees and one citizen receiving special thanks from the mayor.
Ralph Borders received a proclamation of appreciation for 27 years of service with the Haines Borough as the superintendent of Public Works. Three public works employees – Scott Bradford, Ed Bryant, and Dennis Durr – were also given an attaboy for their work during the recent municipal drinking-water -system issues. Then, Haines police Sgt. Josh Dryden was recognized for his nine months of work as interim chief.
“And whereas Sgt. Dryden has been a conscientious and trustworthy employee where dedicated interest and devotion to duty have had a valuable effect of efficiency and morale in his agency and with the borough…”
Finally, Police Chief Heath Scott presented a new citizen-of-the-month award. The recipient was given a plaque and police badge.
“And this is something that we’re going to do on a regular basis – picking out people that support the community, support good values, good decision making and is a friend to all,” Scott told the crowd. “This month the exception service in support of the community goes to Mr. Donald W. Turner, Jr.”
When the clapping died down, the assembly got to work on a motion to approve a new tour permit for Alaska Mountain Guides. The permit allows the company to offer ATV trips around the Lower Klehini River/Flower Mountain area. AMG already offers rafting, heli-skiing, trekking, climbing and more. After little deliberation, the assembly voted 6-0 to approve the four-wheeling permit.
No members of the public spoke out for or against the proposal.
AMG owner Sean Gaffney assured the assembly that the tours will avoid popular subsistence hunting and berry picking spots. He said he already deals with hunters while on river trips with clients, and has worked hard to foster cooperative relationships and avoid conflict.
“We developed the proposal for the ATV tours in much the same way,” Gaffney said. “And we requested the ability to have a couple of different routes primarily so we could stay away from other users, including hunters.”
Assemblyman George Campbell brought up the use of the eroding Porcupine Road. He suggested a discussion about possibly implementing user fees in the future. Gaffney responded and said his group would use only 200 yards of the route, and would stay on the paved section.
After that passed, the assembly unanimously approved an ordinance that allows multiple single-family homes in light industrial zones. The idea was broached by Leonard Dubber, who owns a trailer park on the Haines Highway. He wants to provide compact, high-quality housing to residents. Assemblywoman Diana Lapham made the connection to the tiny house movement.
“It’s a trending issue that’s happening now. And basically mobile homes, or trailers, are kind of on the wane. This could open the door for affordable housing.”
The assembly also voted to introduce an ordinance to modify the process for requesting changes to the borough’s commercial ski tour map. The ordinance still needs to go through two public hearings, but if approved, it would extend the amount of time companies have to ask for different areas to use for ski tours.
The first public hearing for the ski map timeline ordinance is scheduled for the next assembly meeting.
Finally, the assembly spent the last hour and a half in executive session. They discussed a letter from the lawyer of residents Paul Nelson and Sue Waterhouse, who were handed trespass orders from the borough after an incident earlier this summer. The letter requests that the borough formally apologize and reimburse legal fees for what they say was a violation of their rights, and a humiliating experience. After the long, closed-door session, the assembly made no motion. The only thing that was said afterward was this by Assemblymember Margaret Friedenauer:
“While the details at the moment are not public, we are being deliberate and responsive to the situation.”
The next assembly meeting is Aug. 23.