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Assembly to revisit designation of former school lots


The Haines Borough Assembly last week reconsidered plans to proceed with the sale of lots formerly occupied by the primary school on Main Street.

Assembly members will discuss the old school property at their regular meeting on Tuesday, June 26, following a public hearing.

“The closeness of the vote, both with the planning commission and with the assembly, and the amount of community discussion and discourse on the vote or the decision, indicates that the issue probably would benefit from more discussion and involvement of other aspects of the community,” said assemblywoman Debra Schnabel.

The Haines Borough Planning Commission in a 4-3 vote in April classified two lots west of Fourth Avenue for sale “in the near term.” The commission set aside most of a lot at the corner of Third and Main for a “town square,” designated an alley for RV parking and for short-term downtown parking, and kept a lot in the subdivision’s southwest corner for winter snow storage or wood-heat infrastructure.

Mayor Stephanie Scott on May 8 broke a 3-3 tie of the assembly to “direct the manager to begin the process of implementing the planning commission’s recommendations for disposal and use of the former school properties.”

Schnabel, Jerry Lapp and Norm Smith voted in favor of the motion, with Daymond Hoffman, Joanne Waterman and Steve Vick opposed. Schnabel later asked for the assembly to reconsider.

At their May 29 meeting, members unanimously voted down the previous motion, and instead will take up the topic again on June 26, with an opportunity for more public input. Assemblyman Lapp was absent.

“I think that the intention in the original request to have the planning commission classify the property was simply that – to classify it so that it is acknowledged that it’s no longer used for education,” Schnabel said.

“… I think that our motion of May 8 went beyond the intention, to actually activate a sale, and we didn’t really discuss whether or not the time was right or the price was right or the conditions were right or any of those aspects of the sale.”

Planning commissioner Robert Venables in April said the commission’s action was for “classification and direction,” not necessarily an immediate sale. He said some Main Street lots should be sold and put on the tax rolls.

Some residents have eyed the land for a community center or borough office complex.

“The closeness of the votes does reflect the idea that we’re not quite sure which way we want to go with it,” Vick said. “… It would really be neat to move forward with near consensus, whether it’s from the assembly and from the planning commission and from the community, on what direction we take with that particular parcel.”

Borough manager Mark Earnest also requested for the assembly to take up acquisition of the Elks Lodge at the June 26 meeting. The local organization recently lost its charter, and Haines Borough School District officials have shown interest in the building.