Haines residents play bocce ball on a recent evening at the empty lot on 3rd and Main. It is currently being used as a sort of unofficial park. (Emily Files)

Haines residents play croquet on a recent evening at the empty lot on 3rd and Main. (Emily Files)

The Haines Planning Commission on Thursday rejected the idea of classifying a lot on the corner of Main and Third as eligible for sale. In recent weeks, the borough received two requests from residents who want to develop the lot for commercial use.

Mark and Lori Smith, and Terry Pardee submitted letters of interest to the borough in recent weeks. For Pardee, he wants to develop it for commercial use. Lori Smith said she has some “fun ideas” but they’re waiting to see if the property is even available for sale.

The commission heard from both parties and several members of community on Thursday about what to do with the three-quarter acre parcel. The community members who spoke out advocated for some kind of park instead of commercial development.

Here’s Burl Sheldon, who is on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee:

“Retaining some ownership on Main Street is a benefit. Urban park space is, in fact, very valuable. It has an economic benefit.”

He asked the planning commission to consider the highest value of the property to the community. The issue has come up at recent Parks and Rec committee meetings about whether to designate the spot as park space.

Haines manager Bill Seward spoke at the meeting and said the community needs to capitalize on the abundance of artists in Haines.

“I think a fairly inexpensive endeavor may be an amphitheater,” he said. “A place where our Chilkat Dancers or our actors who put on plays, or our musicians who can put on concerts for our visitors and our residents to enjoy. It would bring folks downtown and keep them downtown. I think our local businesses would benefit from keeping folks downtown.”

Commissioner Brenda Josephson said since the borough isn’t in a great financial shape, she’d like to see the lot used commercially to stimulate economic growth.

“As part of the commercial district, the very limited commercial district, it should be offered to people who are willing to make an investment in our town,” she said.

“No matter what you think in the world of economic development, parks, open spaces are good businesses. What brings people to town is the quality of life here, not the availability of jobs,” said Commissioner Lee Heinmiller. He added that people move here and stay for the scenery, and the desire to be in Haines.

The motion to recommend to the assembly that the lot be classified for sale contingent upon an assembly-approved investment plan to be executed within three years failed 2-4.

The issue of whether to open that lot up for public sale will now go to the assembly.