The Haines Borough Assembly on Dec. 28 approved an ordinance that creates a waiting period for tour applicants with dodgy histories and rejected a tax- exempt request for a piece of land near Chilkoot Lake held by the American Bald Eagle Foundation.
Mayor Jan Hill cast the tie-breaking vote to reject the exemption request, joining assembly members Greg Goodman, Steve Vick and Daymond Hoffman. Members Joanne Waterman, Scott Rossman and Jerry Lapp voted for the exemption.
But even supporters of the exemption raised questions about it, noting that seven lots downtown held by the eagle foundation on Old Haines Highway already were exempt.
"I have a hard time giving more than one piece (of land) for tax-exempt status," said Lapp, suggesting that only a non-profit’s headquarters should be free of taxes. "We need to put something in place so we stop doing this… because I’m having heartburn over them."
Waterman defended the exemption, saying foundation personnel go on to the property for studies. "They use it as a base of operations and they have future plans for it," she said. She also said she didn’t see any reason in code to not adopt the exemption.
Waterman said she supported more clearly defining policy on tax-exemptions.
Borough finance chief Jila Stuart said the State of Alaska has such exemptions only on properties currently being used for charitable purposes.
Other property tax-exempt land in the borough includes 42 acres held by the Southeast Alaska State Fair, Port Chilkoot Parade Ground land not used for commercial purposes, Haines Animal Rescue Kennel property on Small Tracts Road, two lots dedicated to Lynn Canal Counseling Services, six lots dedicated to Haines Assisted Living, Chilkat Valley Historical Society property containing the Anway cabin, and nine blocks held by Takshanuk Watershed Council.
The new tour permit law says a person who has a permit suspended twice or revoked once within the previous three calendar years may not submit an application for a new permit.
The wording – that the assembly previously wrestled with – was revised most recently by the borough attorney. It also establishes a $1,000 permit fee for filing of permits that have been previously denied. The wording stipulates that a person paying the fee shall receive a refund of $875 on issuance of the permit.
The fee for filing a tour permit request that requires a public hearing is $125.
The assembly approved the new wording, 5-1, with member Steve Vick opposed.
Also at the meeting, the assembly discussed Picture Point for more than an hour before directing the borough manager to bring back additional information. Assembly members are investigating borough purchase of two scenic pullouts at the point, used for decades by the public.
Residents Jerry Erny and Jim Turnbull spoke against purchase at the meeting. Their arguments included that the valuable property should not be removed from local tax rolls.