A newly formed waterfront aesthetics committee met for the first time Monday evening. The committee was created by Haines Mayor Jan Hill after a surge in citizen concern about how the small boat harbor expansion plan would impact the scenic quality of the waterfront.
Hill began the meeting with some parameters. She said that this committee is solely focused on the aesthetics of the waterfront, not the boat harbor expansion plan. But many citizen concerns about aesthetics are tied to specific parts of the harbor design, including an extended steel wave barrier and a parking lot in front of Lookout Park.
“So my hope is that we will stay focused on aesthetics,” Hill said. “We’re not going to talk about boat harbor expansion unless it applies or is connected to the aesthetics. Our job is to assure the community that when this boat harbor project is done, it will look nice.”
Hill and Deputy Mayor/Assembly Member Diana Lapham co-chair the committee. It’s made up of representatives from a few different groups. Don Turner represents the Port and Harbor Advisory Committee, Sean Gaffney the Tourism Advisory Board, Donnie Turner the planning commission, and Burl Sheldon the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. There will also be a Chamber of Commerce representative.
At Monday’s meeting, a handful of residents spoke about their aesthetic concerns. Debra Schnabel said in the past few decades, every land management plan for the harbor has called for a walking path in Portage Cove.
“I think that where the existing harbor plan falls short for me, is it has not brought into the design pattern that aspect of what the community has always wanted to have,” Schnabel said.
Tourism Director Leslie Ross agreed that a walkway would help more people enjoy the harbor area. She also suggested more benches along the waterfront.
Resident Tresham Gregg said he is concerned that the funds available for the harbor expansion do not pay for beautification.
“I think we really need to see what is the real costs of everything you’re planning,” Gregg said. “‘Cause this is huge. And if something goes wrong, we’re stuck with even more huge [costs.] So as taxpayers, we’re all a little bit frightened.”
A couple people at the meeting expressed a different view, including Assembly Member Lapham. She said the number one priority is to have a working harbor, and aesthetics are secondary to that.
One point of contention in the harbor plan is the expanded parking lot that would extend in front of Lookout Park. At Monday’s meeting, committee members were optimistic that if the parking lot were at a low enough elevation, the view from Lookout Park might not be obstructed.
They’ll take a step towards answering that question at the next meeting. Mayor Hill suggested the group gather at the current parking lot to get a sense of how the planned expansion will impact the scene at the waterfront. They plan to put markers in the ground in front of Lookout Park to gauge how far the parking lot would extend.
Committee members said a street-level rendering of the harbor design from PND Engineers will likely be completed by the next meeting as well. So far, public designs of the harbor expansion are from bird’s-eye view.
The next waterfront aesthetics committee meeting is Monday, August 10 at 6:30 p.m.