The Haines Planning Commission decided to form a committee to resolve concerns between two neighbors with very different land uses: a preschool and a construction company. The Chilkat Valley Preschool is planning to build an extension on the First Avenue senior center. Neighboring property owner Roger Schnabel of Southeast Road Builders brought his concerns to the planning commission at a meeting last week.
“You can bet with children out there playing, and trucks coming in and out, we’re going to the be the bad guy,” Schnabel said. “We’re gonna be the guy that doesn’t care about kids, we’re gonna be the ones that aren’t respectful of the children, and I don’t want to go there.”
Schnabel uses a commercial lot to the west of the senior center as a staging site for industrial equipment and supplies. He’s worried his property rights will be eroded because of safety concerns with the young children next door.
He says this already happened when he renewed his land use permit in 2015. The borough imposed a list of conditions. They include prohibiting access off First Avenue ‘in order to mitigate the impacts to the senior center and playground,’ prohibiting heavy mechanical work, limiting heavy equipment from idling longer than 20 minutes at the site.
“So I said ‘whatever, I’m not going to make an issue out of this,’ Schnabel said. “But it wasn’t right from my way of thinking. But I didn’t fight it.”
Now with the planned addition of a preschool near his property, Schnabel is worried his land use will be limited even more. Planning chair Rob Goldberg said this situation is a consequence of the fairly open zoning restrictions in the area.
“The commercial zone is one of the broadest zones we have,” Goldberg said. “It allows for a lot of different uses, commercial obviously but it also allows for residential. It allows for things like the senior center and the senior housing and the preschool.”
Goldberg and the other planning commissioners were optimistic that the parties could work out a solution. Goldberg said it could be as simple as putting up a fence. Commissioner Heather Lende suggested they form a committee to talk it over.
“Kids and commercial stuff don’t necessarily mix…but it might be good to try to hammer it out while we’re looking at a map and figuring it out.”
The committee will consist of Lende, Schnabel and preschool representative Renee Hoffman. They’ll try to figure out the best way for a preschool and an industrial lot to be neighbors.