July 5, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 26

Assembly retains parking rules

The Haines Borough Planning Commission will have to go back to the drawing board to address parking requirements, as the assembly on June 25 struck down an ordinance endorsed by the commission to relax the rules.

The ordinance would have allowed commercial business developers to allow adjacent, on-street parking to count toward parking space requirements with the permission of the commission. Businesses currently are required to provide off-street parking based on the number of their employees and their building’s square footage.

The assembly rejected the ordinance on a 4-2 vote, with members Debra Schnabel, Norm Smith, Jerry Lapp and Steve Vick opposed. Members Dave Berry and Joanne Waterman voted in favor.

Berry said the assembly should trust the commission’s recommendation. “Since the planning commission deals with this on a regular basis and the borough assembly doesn’t, I like to fall back on their recommendation. And they recommend that this is something to make their life a little easier.”

Mayor Stephanie Scott, who opposed the ordinance since its introduction, said the code change would “privatize the streets” and “create more problems than it solves.”

Since the commission would decide on a case-by-case basis whether to allow businesses to use on-street parking toward their requirement, this would create “a recipe for accusations of favoritism,” Scott said.

“I can very well envision this as a set-up for a problem to arise...‘Please come move your car because this is part of my business’s parking allocation.’ I think it opens up that possibility, and I don’t think there’s a need for it,” she said.

Planning commissioner Rob Miller defended the ordinance and provided the assembly with a list of other decisions the commission is charged with making on a case-by-case basis, such as whether to grant variances.

“I don’t think that it would be a big political football... From what I’ve seen in my short 10 months on the body, it’s a very fair group of people and I don’t see a lot of politics being played. If, in fact, this is a Pandora’s box, then it was opened up quite a while ago with these other provisions,” Miller said.

Scott recommended that if parking requirements are too stringent or deterring business development, the planning commission should consider reducing the parking space requirements. She also suggested creating more public parking, possibly at the old school site.