February 10, 2011

It’s vital for our community to have people willing to open businesses and a borough government that strives to help them, but assistance shouldn’t come at the expense of laws we’ve created to protect the integrity of our town.

Planning commissioners and borough staff have made a very narrow reading of borough code to determine that trailers hauled up on foundations are no longer trailers or mobile homes, both of which are prohibited in the commercial district.

Now these structures may become permanent by borough reclassification of them as a "light commercial" use instead of "temporary" one.

If that happens, say hello to "The Hamburger Hut," "The Weiner Wagon" and "Surfside Souvenir Shack," and say goodbye to the dream of filling empty buildings and revitalizing our Main Street. Who needs a building when you can roll a trailer onto a prime lot and hang out your shingle? Presto, we’re Wasilla.

We need stronger leadership at city hall to keep our town from becoming a mishmash of makeshift structures. In the meantime, here’s an idea for borough leaders:

· Immediately re-write code to prohibit commercial trailers in the townsite. They’re unattractive and they skim the cream from business owners who’ve invested in buildings and support our town through property tax, as well as sales tax. Continue to require owners of the three, downtown trailers to get annual permits, attaching those permits only to the existing owners. Trailer permits expire when those businesses change hands.

· Encourage borough planners, the Haines Chamber of Commerce and the downtown revitalization committee to work with owners of trailers to find homes for their businesses in existing or new buildings near or on Main Street.

We can’t build up our downtown by simultaneously creating a new class of development that discourages it.

-- Tom Morphet


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