August 8, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 31

Editorial

The Haines Borough should sell Main Street property sought for a new, 50-room hotel, as it has failed to develop a plan for the site in the five years since the last purchase offer was made by Alaska Mountain Guides.

But that’s not the only reason this sale is good idea. Consider also:

· Following the demolition of the Thunderbird Motel and the redevelopment of the Mountain View Motel and Fort Seward Lodge, the town has lost dozens of rooms, and now lacks accommodations necessary for major events and small conventions.

· A new hotel would make the town more attractive to independent visitors, who constitute one of the few forms of economic development that nearly everyone in town agrees on.

· A new hotel at the site would anchor Main Street and serve as a potential magnet for other shops to locate on adjacent lots, filling gaps that now give our business district a blighted look.

· The hotel plan is an encouraging vote of confidence in the future of this community and an important opportunity to demonstrate we can make some progress on economic development.

For more than five years there’s been talk that these lots should be preserved for a park, or a sports complex, or “muniplex,” and that they’re “too valuable” to let go. Without addressing the twisted logic that a town surrounded on all sides by parks and wild lands also needs a large park downtown, let’s review the record.

In March 2008, the Haines Borough Assembly voted 4-3 against selling the shuttered primary school building and property on Main Street. Then-Mayor Fred Shields, who broke an assembly tie on the issue, said he voted for keeping the property so the borough could develop a plan for it.

“If there is no plan forthcoming, then I think the property should be sold,” Shields said.

After more discussion about selling, the assembly in January 2009 decided to keep the property at least until a downtown plan was completed that would chart development along Main Street.

The borough paid $40,000 for a downtown plan that was brilliant for its simplicity, clear language and “connect-the-dots” outline for revitalizing Main Street. Unfortunately, for lack of attention the municipality has made little progress on the plan’s recommendations and has allowed downtown revitalization to fade.

After five years, the borough has no plan for the future of the property at Fifth and Main, and it’s not clear at this point the municipality is capable of generating such a document.

In the meantime, the people at Aspen Hotels have come up with a plan. Here’s a vote for folks with a plan.

--Tom Morphet