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Borough comprehensive plan begins with scientific survey


March 31, 2011

The Haines Borough’s updated comprehensive plan will explore "what Haines is going to look like in the year 2020 and how we chart a path to get there," said Barbara Sheinberg, a consultant coordinating the project.

Sheinberg, of Juneau, will meet with the Haines Borough Planning Commission in a work session 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 31, to go over a scientific survey of adult residents that will drive the comprehensive planning process.

Borough officials describe the plan as "a community blueprint for the future" that will "lay out Haines’ desired future, goals to achieve this future, and describe specific ways the community can use and manage resources, land and investments to achieve this desired future."

Thursday’s work session at the council chambers is open to the public and will focus on revisions to a draft survey.

"It’s going to be a scientific, statistically valid survey, so 200 randomly-selected households will be surveyed," Sheinberg said. "If a household only has a cell phone and doesn’t have a land line, we’d really like to include those people in the pool of folks with an opportunity to get selected for the survey."

She can be reached at 586-3141 or to be added to the list of potential survey participants. The survey is expected to begin in late April, and each call should last less than 15 minutes.

"Because it’s going to be a random survey, what that lets you do is it lets you generalize the results of the survey to the entire community," Sheinberg said. "It’s really different from a web poll and it’s really different from people who show up at a meeting and express an opinion."

She also has set up a Facebook page, called "Haines 2020 Comprehensive Plan," to share information on the project.

Some of the topics listed on a draft of the survey include civic life, downtown, economic development, employment, local government, retirement and tourism. Respondents also are asked to weigh the importance of projects such as rehabilitating the Chilkat Center, constructing a community recreation center or expanding the boat harbor.

"There hasn’t been a really broad survey like this done in Haines since 1998, which is a long time ago," Sheinberg said.

She said the results will be presented at a town meeting in May. Sheinberg will lead other comprehensive plan meetings, about monthly, and said they will center on different topics.

Borough manager Mark Earnest said the comprehensive plan update will be a year-long process, set to finish in early 2012, at a cost of about $100,000. He said Sheinberg worked on the last update in 2004, on a tight timeline following consolidation of the city and borough.

Earnest said the comprehensive plan is required by borough code, charter and state law, and the planning commission will oversee the project.

"You want to make sure that your planning process is consistent with your comprehensive plan," he said. "As we say here, ‘Plan our work and work our plan.’ That’s a really important concept, because there’s no sense in going through all of this just as an exercise."

Earnest said the plan will serve as "a guide" for the borough’s economic development efforts, and will be adopted by the assembly.

"We have to be focused on what the borough’s role in all of this is, vs. the private sector," he said. "We just need to provide the opportunities for the private sector to do best in the community and make the investments that really do create the jobs, but the borough has a supporting role in that process."

Planning commissioner Robert Venables said Sheinberg’s opening survey will be especially helpful with heated topics in the borough.

"A survey helps to solicit public opinion without the cloud of contention and emotion that sometimes gets in the way of good policy making, and since there are a number of potentially controversial issues on the horizon, a survey could be a valuable tool," Venables said.