Last week, the Haines Waterfront Aesthetics committee held their second meeting. Mayor Jan Hill formed the group in response to public concerns about the small boat harbor expansion project. Last week’s meeting at times grew heated as committee members and members of the public argued over the scope of ‘aesthetics.’
Instead of meeting in borough assembly chambers, the committee gathered at Lookout Park so they could see the waterfront as they brainstormed aesthetic ideas.
Pieces of orange flagging tape marked the perimeters of the proposed expanded parking lot. Some committee member walked to the edge of the flagged border and talked about how the green space next to the parking lot could be made more aesthetically pleasing.
“You could build a trail down through this and make it grassy, park like,” said committee member Donnie Turner.
But some of the people gathered wanted to talk about the parking lot itself. Debra Schnabel had been appointed the chamber of commerce representative on the committee after the first meeting.
“For Lookout Park to be surrounded by a parking lot negates it as a park in my opinion. That’s an aesthetic number one that I think’s being violated,” Schnabel said.
“Well my response to that is if you’re sitting at Lookout Park and you choose to look down at cars, shame on you,” said Mayor Hill. “‘Cause there’s a lot of better things to look at if you look straight ahead. I think you can look beyond cars. They’re not gonna be right in your face.”
Most of the members of the aesthetics committee say their job is to vision how to improve the scenery of the waterfront without interfering with the harbor expansion design, referred to as 14B. That proposal from PND Engineers was chosen by the Port and Harbor Advisory Committee and approved by the borough assembly. The 95 percent design from PND was recently posted on the Haines borough website.
Donnie Turner is the planning commission representative on the aesthetics committee.
“People that I talk to think the parking lot’s not big enough as it is,” Turner said. “The parking lot’s gonna be a parking lot. There’s not aesthetics in a parking lot.”
Committee member Diana Lapham told Schnabel she had to ‘divorce’ herself from her concerns about 14B, at least in the aesthetics discussions. She said, we’re not here to change anything about the harbor expansion. We’re here to deal with aesthetics, because this is what the public has cried out for.
“They have cried out that they have not had enough public input into the whole scope of a project,” Lapham said. “And now we’re giving them a small portion of that.”
Resident Tresham Gregg responded, “Why not give us the whole scope? You’re saying that the public cried out about the whole scope of the project and we’re giving them this little bit, this little aesthetics which we can’t really afford. But we’re not giving them any opportunity to change the concept.”
“There is no changing 14B,” Lapham said. “Because the assembly made the decision that they made it with the information they were given and we’re not going backwards.”
No clear decisions were made at the meeting, except for that the committee would write some kind of recommendation for the planning commission at their next gathering. No date has been set for that meeting yet.
After last week’s meeting, Schnabel voluntarily withdrew from the waterfront aesthetics committee. Chamber President Kyle Gray will take her place.