A committee that hasn’t met for a while was the topic of some tense discussion at Tuesday’s Haines Borough Assembly meeting. The waterfront aesthetics committee last met in September, and some borough assembly members questioned its record-keeping and role.
For a while now, some Haines residents have expressed concerns that the planned small boat harbor expansion will degrade the beauty of the waterfront. In fact, some voiced those worries at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We have probably the most beautiful waterfront in Southeast Alaska and maybe one of the most beautiful ones in the world,” said Fred Shields. “And we’re gonna change that.”
The assembly approved the harbor 95 percent design earlier this month. The components that have drawn the most criticism include an expanded parking lot, a metal wave barrier and the relocation of Lookout Park.
Back in the summer, Mayor Jan Hill formed an ad hoc working group to try to deal with some of the aesthetic objections. It met three times, made some general recommendations to the planning commission, and then stopped meeting.
But the concerns about the harbor didn’t go away. So, Port and Harbor Committee Chair Norm Hughes organized a joint meeting on Monday with his group and the Parks and Recreation Committee. Parks and rec has been working on ideas for a waterfront trail.
Mayor Hill told Hughes that he should’ve invited the aesthetics committee.
“Concerns have been expressed to me since your meeting that parks and rec have been looking at things the aesthetics committee has been looking at,” Hill said. “And I thought parks and rec was looking at trails. So I think it’s critically important that any committee or body in this borough that’s working on anything to do with the boat harbor all be on the same page.”
Assemblyman Ron Jackson attended the joint meeting. On Tuesday, he brought up the aesthetics committee.
“I was surprised that the aesthetics committee came out of nowhere, because as far as I could tell they disappeared.”
Jackson said he couldn’t find any record or minutes of the aesthetics committee meeting. He and assembly member Margaret Friedenauer said they didn’t know the committee was still active. Mayor Hill, who chairs the aesthetics group, responded. She said the aesthetics committee is a subcommittee, and subcommittees are not required to take minutes. They did, however, take notes, Hill said.
“The reason we have not met recently is we’re waiting for the permitting process to be done so we know what we have to work with,” Hill said. “We could’ve had meetings all winter. We were kind of busy dealing with minor offenses I think. And so we didn’t. But my intent is this committee will continue.”
Friedenauer and Jackson pushed back, saying it wasn’t clear that the committee was even still in existence, and the lack of minutes added to the mystery.
“To have a committee that I’m a liaison on last night be criticized for not including a committee I didn’t even know was still in existence…and it is a committee,” Friedenauer said. “It’s called a committee under boards and commissions on our website. So if it needs to be changed to subcommittee that’s cool.”
Assemblywoman Diana Lapham is on the aesthetics group, and she said the notes are available, if you do your homework.
“Don’t assume you have the information when you don’t,” Lapham said. “Always check with administration.”
There was a similar rift when Jackson and Friedenauer brought up the idea of forming a code review committee to make changes to the code that informs the proposed minor offenses ordinance. That idea was postponed to the next meeting, where recommendations from an ad hoc minor offenses committee will be on the agenda.