Planners may take up tighter building regs Commercial structures ID'd


March 10, 2011

The Haines Borough Planning Commission may take up the question of modified trailers, along with commercial building standards, acting commission chair Rob Goldberg said at last week’s commission meeting.

The commission also endorsed two changes in planning code aimed at preventing problems that arose when it granted Haines Assisted Living two variances for proximity to an adjoining structure.

Goldberg asked that discussion of food stands in modified trailers be put on the agenda for the group’s next meeting. Two stands went up last year. He said he’d been approached by former city councilors who were "horrified" that trailers were allowed to go up.

"Under their tenure, buildings like this were not allowed in the downtown, so it’s something we need to talk about," Goldberg said. Three commercial trailers, including one dating back about 10 years, hold "temporary use" permits but have sought permanent status.

Borough law sets no standards for commercial structures in terms of building code, except language about permanent foundations, he said. Shanties akin to ones in the Third World would be allowed under current borough code, provided they were on concrete pier blocks, Goldberg said.

"I’m not sure this is the kind of commercial development we want to see in our downtown. We need to talk about standards for construction," he said.

Commissioner Robert Venables said there would be complaints about the food stands even if they were on full foundations. "The issue goes way beyond foundational issues."

"It goes to aesthetics and it goes to construction standards," Goldberg said.

Later in the meeting, borough facilities director Brad Maynard suggested the borough adopt a modified version of the Uniform Building Code. In Juneau, planners started with the UBC, then modified it to meet local needs, Maynard said.

Maynard said a $250 fine for building without a permit was "the cost of doing business for a lot of people." He suggested the fine be raised to $1,000 minimum.

"If people knew they were going to pay $1,000 minimum, they might think twice about paying (a fine) as the cost of doing business."

The commission endorsed a change in planning code that would require a conditional use permit – instead of a variance, as currently required – for constructing a building within 15 feet of an adjacent one.

A conflict exists in code between a required 15-foot separation and an allowance in the commercial zone for neighboring buildings to abut.

In code, several conditions must be met before the commission can grant a variance.

The commission also endorsed a code change that requires building plans include an elevation drawing. Lack of such a drawing was cited by commissioners as one of the reasons they didn’t see an encroachment of required space between HAL and its neighbor.

Also at the meeting, Goldberg made a pitch for the borough to allow use of a lot by the police department for a community garden.

The next planning commission meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 14.



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