The Haines Borough Planning Commission is struggling to craft some sort of compromise regarding the potential rezone of the Chilkat Lake Road area.
Several property owners in the Eagle Vista subdivision petitioned the borough requesting a rezone to rural residential after a proposed heliport project narrowly failed last winter. Now residents and landowners are divided on what sections, if any, should be zoned to rural residential or rural mixed use. The area currently is zoned general use.
The commission has offered three options: maintaining general use, zoning both sides of Chilkat Lake Road as rural residential, or zoning the Eagle Vista subdivision side of Chilkat Lake Road as rural residential but leaving the west side of the road alone.
“You have a lot of homeowners there who want the protection of having a quiet lifestyle in their home, and then you’ve got people with largely undeveloped land who might want to do something else. So we’ve got really diametrically opposed interests and it’s going to be hard to forge some kind of compromise,” said Rob Goldberg, commission chair.
Last fall, the commission mailed 60 surveys to property owners in the area asking whether they preferred to remain in general use or be rezoned. Of the 34 valid returned surveys, 19 wanted to be rezoned to rural residential or rural mixed use and 15 wanted to remain general use.
When the commission mapped the responses, it appeared the majority of property owners in the Eagle Vista subdivision wanted to rezone, while the majority of property owners outside of the subdivision wanted to stay general use.
“We’ve got a situation where we live in a democracy, and in a democracy the majority is supposed to get their way. But at the same time, you don’t want to crush the interest of the minority,” Goldberg said.
Some Eagle Vista property owners expressed concern that rezoning one side of the road and not the other would be pointless, as development on one side would still affect property owners on the other.
Goldberg recalled the rezoning that occurred out Mud Bay Road 20 years ago, where 85 percent of property owners approved of rural residential classification. “But the 15 percent were not happy about it at all. And there are still people out there today who won’t even say ‘hi’ to me when I pass them on the road. So it’s something that can bring up a lot of anger in people, and we’ve had some pretty angry letters and emails come to us already on this topic. So it’s not something we want to try to force through on people,” Goldberg said.
Scott Sundberg attended the commission’s Jan. 17 meeting, which was intended to offer information to the public on the potential rezone. Sundberg, co-owner of Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures, unsuccessfully applied for a permit to build a heliport on property at .6 Mile Chilkat Lake Road for helicopter skiing tours. Sundberg suggested the borough needs to adopt objective noise standards which can be consulted when determining whether to issue a conditional use permit.
Area resident Becky Hunt also attended the meeting and asked what the commission’s timeline would be on making a rezone decision. Goldberg and the rest of the commissioners were clear that it would be a slow process with as much public involvement as possible.
“There’s a lot of competing interest in this process and it deserves a slow, judicious effort with everybody participating,” commissioner Andy Hedden said.
The commission will send out additional information to residents, including the survey results. It is hoping to receive comment from property owners who haven’t yet weighed in.
Goldberg said the commission will hold another informational session on the possible rezone during its March meeting.