June 21, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 25

Comments sought on comprehensive plan

The Haines Borough Planning Commission was scheduled to hold a second public hearing on its draft comprehensive plan on Thursday, June 21.

The 300-page plan, intended to be a “blueprint” for future government decisions and spending, is a borough-generated summary of economic and demographic information about the area, tapping sources including a scientific survey of residents conducted one year ago.

It also includes projections, recommendations and lists of assets and challenges facing the community.

The plan cost $100,000 to create and has been in the works for more than a year.

The current draft includes projections that the community will grow by as many as 463 people by 2030, requiring up to 210 additional housing units. That forecast is at odds with ones from state Department of Labor economists who expect the community to shrink.

The draft plan says the community needs to be “family friendly” to maintain the annual birth rate here.

The plan reiterates survey results finding adults and youths here “very satisfied” with their overall “quality of life” here, a gauge that is different than a person’s “standard of living,” which is based on income.

The plan cites an “off the charts” rate of local volunteerism but also notes that residents cite the economy and a lack of jobs as the most important issues in the next five years.

The plan provides an overview of the condition of borough infrastructure and says 75 percent of the borough budget comes from local sources.

That’s good insomuch as the town is relatively less dependent of federal and state money than other Alaska municipalities. But it’s a challenge in that taxes here are relatively high. The $2,116 per-capita tax burden is only below Skagway and Juneau in Southeast, the plan says.

The plan finds only 41 percent of personal income in the borough is derived from wages; 23 percent comes from self-employment and 36 percent comes from the “mailbox,” in the form of retirement income or other funds from out-of-town.

Community challenges cited by the draft plan include the cost of power, the seasonal nature of the economy, low wages, a drop in employment since 2005, an aging population, loss of family households and deferred maintenance of local inftastructure.

The plan looks at a breadth of topics, including transporation, land use, parks and recreation, utilities and borough facilities, including assessments, goals and implementation plans.

It calls for study including research into why businesses are not locating downtown and a “master plan” for the block of Main Street lots formerly occupied by school buildings. It also recommends development of a land management plan for borough land acquisition and disposal.

After review by the commission, the comprehensive plan goes to the borough assembly for comment and approval. A copy of the plan is at the borough website.