At its latest meeting, the Haines Planning Commission took up a conversation about whether resource extraction should be allowed in the Mud Bay neighborhood. The discussion drew a large crowd of residents to the meeting. But the commission didn’t come to any conclusions yet.
“I see limiting our land use as causing an economic down spiral for Mud Bay,” said Haines resident John Carlson. He was one of a number of community members who came out to voice their opinion.
Here’s the issue. Right now, there is nothing in borough code that addresses resource extraction in Mud Bay. That means you can sell resources, like lumber, from your own property without getting a permit.
The question before the planning commission is: should it be this way? Or, should there be more restrictions?
The residents who spoke had a range of opinions. George Figdor said there should be more restrictions, including a required permit for this kind of work.
“And I think that it’s disingenuous if somebody that wants to do this – do something that’s really not native to a rural residential area, at least they need to go through the grinds of a conditional use permit,” said Figdor.
Patty Kermoian pointed out that the neighborhood is in a rural residential zone. She said small scale resource extraction suits the character of the area.
“I feel like a property owner should be able to cut trees and use their trees and maybe sell them if they need to but I do not want to see large scale resource extraction in a rural residential area,” said Kermoian.
But Sylvia Heinz doesn’t want added restrictions. She owns a portable sawmill and said it’s important to be able to buy and sell local resources. As a business owner, she said she wants to be able to continue making local lumber, and other local resources, accessible.
“Local resources are at the center of our life and they have been since before we brought our property but especially since we bought our property out in Mud Bay,” said Heinz. “And I really think it’s incredibly important to keep those local resources available.”
Roger Schnabel said not allowing residents to sell their resources would be taking away some of their property value.
“People that have already purchased lands, they have a value,” said Schnabel. “And those values are based on a lot of different things and one of those things are the resources that are on it. And timber is one of those resources. To now tell a landowner who valued that property accordingly, based on its value for that resource that he can’t recover from it, that I think is out of line, and that’s improper.”
There are a few options the planning commission is looking at recommending to the assembly now. They could leave the code as it is. That would mean resource extraction for commercial sale could continue without any permits. They could also prohibit the activity all together, or make it so you need to obtain a conditional use permit. Or, they could land somewhere in between, allowing resource extraction up to a certain level.
They didn’t make a decision at this meeting. Some landowners were not notified of the possible code change because of a computer technicality. So, the issue will have a second public hearing at the commission’s next meeting.