Due to survey results and testimony at its March 14 meeting, the Haines Borough Planning Commission is dropping discussion of a potential rezone in the Chilkat Lake Road area.
Several property owners in the Eagle Vista subdivision petitioned the commission more than a year ago asking the area be rezoned to rural residential in response to a heliport project proposed by Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures (SEABA). The area is currently zoned general use.
The rezone push sparked disagreement among neighbors, prompting the commission to conduct a survey to determine the feelings of all residents in the area.
“It appears that the area is just so divided that I don’t think the planning commission is going to proceed with any rezoning at this time,” commission chair Rob Goldberg said in an interview this week.
“We don’t want to create any more animosity between people than what already exists. It’s very split, and there don’t seem to be too many people in the middle,” he added.
Goldberg said the initial petition was invalid. “Because the neighborhood is so divided on the issue, they were having trouble getting 51 percent, and they kept adjusting their boundaries to try to get 51 percent. So their petition wasn’t accepted by the borough.”
The rezone process can be initiated by a petition signed by 51 percent of property owners in the area.
Goldberg said dissension in the neighborhood was not initiated by the petition to rezone, but by the heliport proposal. Scott Sundberg, co-owner of SEABA, attended the commission’s March 14 meeting and said his company is still exploring avenues for building a heliport in the area, despite being denied a conditional use permit for such a project in January 2012.
“We are still considering heliports out there and we are looking at ways to do it and move it further away from the CCRs (covenants, conditions and restrictions) of Eagle Vista, because that’s the only thing that denied our ability to do it,” Sundberg said.
Chilkat Lake Road area residents opposed to the rezone attended the March 14 meeting and lobbied the commission to drop the rezone issue. No one spoke in favor of the rezone, although resident Ben Williams said he was “still on the fence.”
Chris Brooks, a property owner on the opposite side of the road from the Eagle Vista subdivision, said the commission shouldn’t waste any more time on the matter, as a rezone would only cause more problems than solutions.
Chip Strong, who, like Brooks, lives across the road from the subdivision, said the rezone was an attempt to shut down development and industry in the area, which would ultimately be detrimental to the community. Maria Paquet said rezoning was “a ploy” to deny a heliport and prevent business development.
Ady Milos also spoke in opposition to the rezone. “I, for one, resent this whole can of worms being opened up... It’s just jeopardizing everybody’s freedoms for the whims of a few,” she said.
Commissioners Donnie Turner and Lee Heinmiller also said they did not feel there was a need to move forward with a rezone.