Haines’ new borough manager is related to a construction company chief and major landowner. How Debra Schnabel should handle land use and contracting decisions related to her brother, Roger, has been a question since she was hired about a month ago.
Last week, Schnabel presented a policy that addresses the land use issue. It was approved by the borough assembly.
Usually, the manager works with residents seeking land use and development permits.
For example, interim manager Brad Ryan drew up a list of recommended restrictions when Roger Schnabel applied for a resource extraction conditional use permit earlier this year.
On land use decisions that don’t require a conditional permit, the manager has the final say.
Debra Schnabel worked with other borough staff to come up with a policy that takes land management authority out of the manager’s hands in cases where the applicant is an immediate family member.
For land use and conditional use permitting, authority would be elevated to the mayor (or the attorney in the case of conditional use.) Conditional use permits would then, as usual, go to the planning commission.
In subdivision and platting matters, the public facilities director would take charge before submitting a recommendation to the planning commission. The mayor already must sign off on platting decisions.
Land use citations would be signed by the borough clerk or deputy clerk instead of the manager.
There is still the question of borough contracting with Roger Schnabel and his company, Southeast Road Builders.
The borough attorney, Brooks Chandler, says according to conflict of interest rules in code, the municipality cannot contract with Roger while Debra is manager.
Chandler said Haines’ code may be considered restrictive for such a small town. Right now, it doesn’t allow contracting with ‘immediate family members.’ Immediate family member is defined as a spouse or person related by blood or marriage.
A few weeks ago, the assembly directed Schnabel to draw up a proposed code change to resolve the issue.
Schnabel says she expects to present a proposed code revision to the assembly in late July.