February 28, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 8

Planners reject CIA fine appeal

The Haines Borough Planning Commission denied on Feb. 14 the Chilkoot Indian Association’s appeal of $1,000 in fines for unpermitted residential construction in the Chilkoot Estates Subdivision.

The commission voted 5-2 in favor of upholding the after-the-fact fines imposed by planning and zoning technician Xi “Tracy” Cui on Jan. 10. Commissioners Andy Hedden, Danny Gonce, Robert Miller, Rob Goldberg and Donnie Turner voted for the four $250 fines; Robert Venables and Lee Heinmiller were opposed.

Scott Hansen, CIA’s tribal transportation coordinator, claimed in his appeal letter to Cui that CIA completed the four land use permit applications in order to develop four separate residential structures on one 54-acre parcel.

Borough staff determined this required a conditional use permit, which allows for the construction of multiple residences on one lot, and public notice letters for the permit applications were sent out Oct. 7, 2010.

According to agenda minutes from the Oct. 14, 2010, planning commission meeting, planning technician Steve Ritzinger explained CIA “did not want to go through with this conditional use permit because they feared it would jeopardize their funding source,” and the item was pulled from the agenda.

“The conditional use permit appeared on our agenda, and then it was withdrawn, so there was no way that we could deal with that and issue those conditional use permits when CIA withdrew it,” commission chair Rob Goldberg told Hansen at the Feb. 14 meeting.  

Hansen claimed numerous attempts to contact borough administration to address the issue went unanswered. “Delays by the administration process had leveraged us into an impossible situation because even though we played by the rules, they didn’t. They left us hanging. We finished the buildings, which are now occupied,” he wrote in a Jan. 17 letter.

Commissioner Donnie Turner said there were multiple options CIA could have pursued, such as posting a performance bond to get the final plat approved. “You applied for a conditional use permit; that’s the one that you applied for. You withdrew those. Now you have no permits, and you built all those buildings without a building permit.”

Hansen responded that he didn’t think withdrawing the conditional use permits from the meeting agenda shut down the permitting process. He also said a gap in borough code is what is causing the problem. “I don’t think the CIA is trying to skirt any rules or rub anybody’s nose in anything. I think we’re kind of dealing with a section of code that doesn’t talk about how you develop on a subdivision while you’re building it, which happens to be our situation,” Hansen said.

Commissioner Gonce disagreed, and said that is precisely what conditional use permits are for.

Commissioner Venables said he had a “hard time supporting a $1,000 fine,” but felt lesser amounts could be justified, as “there’s definitely culpability on their part.”

Cui said the borough will consider approval of the permits upon receiving the $1,000 fine.