Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Food trailers secure permanent approval; Decision on 3rd food stand looms


March 31, 2011

The Haines Borough has quietly granted permanent status to two modified trailers operating as food vending businesses on a lot next to the post office.

The borough’s decision came in the form of two March 14 letters from planning technician Steve Ritzinger. Ritzinger wrote that lot owner George Campbell had received approval of land-use permits for food stand owners Jason Joel and Nancy Coleman to operate their respective businesses on his property.

Conditions placed on the food stands are compliance with state health regulations, use of grease traps and completion of construction within two years.

A decision on a similar food trailer on Second Avenue appears imminent, as its current permit expired March 30.

Neither Ritzinger nor borough manager Mark Earnest could say this week what happens to the permits in the event Joel or Coleman sell their operations. Joel has told potential buyers he wants to sell his pizza stand. "We’ll have to look at it when that time comes," Ritzinger said.

Earnest, who said March 1 he’d be looking for borough assembly or planning commission direction on the trailers, could not say why the permits were issued in advance of those discussions.

An assembly committee discussion of the issue is still set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 12. It had previously been scheduled for March 22.

A new wave of commercial trailers has been questioned by the downtown revitalization committee and store owners.

"I’m jealous," restaurant owner Christy Tengs Fowler said this week. "I would love to be able to set up next to the cruise ship dock and have low overhead and small payroll. Who knew?"

Prior to issuance of the March 14 permits, the borough had issued the food stands "conditional approval" to operate, Earnest said this week. The approval meant they were allowed to operate until they met standards for borough structures, he said.

Requirements for structures under borough law are currently limited to having a permanent foundation.

Coleman’s business was briefly shuttered by the borough, but reopened after the structure was set on a pier-block foundation.

Earnest couldn’t say how many other modified trailers might be allowed on the lot. Campbell has said he plans a "food court" on the lot.

"The permits that came in, the borough and borough staff reviewed the code. We had several (planning commissioners) reviewing this to make sure they were allowable and the interpretation based on the current language of the code was that they were, so they were issued," Earnest said.

Earnest said the upcoming meeting of the assembly would be an opportunity for the community to weigh in on the question of use of temporary structures for business purposes and to "address ambiguities in code" including what constitutes a permanent foundation.

Asked whether he saw the March 14 permits as a precedent, Earnest said, "The precedent would be set by the direction of the assembly as we go through this process."

Other businesses seeking to operate out of modified trailers would "not necessarily" get permits like the ones just issued, Earnest said. The Second Avenue ice cream stand has operated under a "temporary use" permit that had to be renewed.

The March 14 permits became known Tuesday when the borough responded to a March 15 public records request by the Chilkat Valley News.

The borough’s planning commission has twice discussed the trailers, but has taken no action and made no recommendations.

It was unclear this week whether the food stands would be subject to borough property tax. "It’s my understanding the structures of this nature are personal property (exempt from property tax), but that’s an issue that we’ll be working on," Earnest said.