December 20, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 51

Commission renews gravel pit permit

The Haines Borough Planning Commission voted Dec. 13 to renew a conditional use permit for operation of an Allen Road gravel pit despite concerns voiced by residents living near the pit.

Commissioner Donnie Turner recused himself from voting because his company, Turner Construction, applied for the permit renewal. The three-year permit allows the company to operate under certain conditions, including no weekend operation, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work hours, and no crushing, blasting or refueling.

Toni DeWitt, a property owner living under the pit, said the operation has adversely affected her quality of life. DeWitt bought the property in 1990 before the pit existed.

“This gravel pit has caused me much emotional stress. It should not be there. But for years, the City of Haines/Haines Borough have supported it being there. There does not seem to be much concern about the neighboring property values, the noise we endure, or the safety of families living below this development,” DeWitt said.

DeWitt also provided pictures to the commission documenting drainage issues on her property which she believes could be caused by the development of the gravel pit. Property owner Liz Heywood, who also lives near the pit, said she too has emergent drainage issues since she bought her property in the mid-1990s.

Commission chair Rob Goldberg said the issues stemming from the Turner gravel pit, which date back to the 1990s, should act as a warning to future planning and zoning decisions regarding industrial development near residential zones.

“As we look at places up the highway, it’s really something to consider when we’re planning. Industrial uses in residential areas have to have some sort of buffer in between, otherwise you end up with situations like this where nobody’s really happy,” Goldberg said.

Borough manager Mark Earnest recommended permit renewal, saying the extraction operation has not received any citizen complaints or been issued any citations since 2009.