After receiving a petition signed by 650 residents, the Haines Borough Assembly voted Tuesday to nullify its Sept. 22 decision to adopt the controversial minor offenses ordinance.

The group voted to let the ordinance continue its movement through the public process prior to adoption. The document will come back before the assembly on April 26, 2016.

In the meantime, a new committee consisting of members of the public and assembly will work on the ordinance.

Assembly member Joanne Waterman moved to reconsider her Sept. 22 vote in favor of the ordinance’s passage. However, she insisted the motion wasn’t because she felt the assembly had done anything wrong in passing the legislation.

“I guess I can honestly say that my resistance until now has been due to my belief in not giving in to name-calling and threats and bullying, due to what I feel is misinformation that has happened through this process,” she said.

Waterman asked that critics of the ordinance follow through and not abandon the effort to craft a better document. “I challenge the people that have made these public statements: Come on, step up now,” she said. “You need to live up to your words of wanting to fix this ordinance and continue work. By gosh, you got it. The entire community is watching now.”

Assembly member Diana Lapham, who also voted to pass the ordinance on Sept. 22, said she spoke with 39 people about minor offenses. Of those 39, three signed the petition, she said.

“Joanne and I had some interesting conversations about this. She helped me to understand a lot. I in turn told her if she reconsidered, I would support it,” Lapham said.

“At this moment in time with 650 signatures on here, it isn’t good for the community. It needs to come back. And we will approach it in a different venue,” she added.

Assembly member Mike Case, who voted with Waterman and Lapham in favor of the ordinance on Sept. 22, said he still believes opposition to the ordinance stems from ignorance of its content and implications.

“The majority of the people have no idea what is in (the ordinance),” Case said. “I think that most people don’t understand it.”

The vote to undo adoption and send the ordinance back to committee passed unanimously.

At the beginning of the meeting, before the vote took place, members of the public pleaded with the assembly to reverse the vote. Resident Carolyn Ganner said people “jumped” at the opportunity to sign the petition because they were so unhappy with the ordinance’s passage.

“In this instance, the assembly was in a hurry. It didn’t really follow procedure. It’s really essential that the assembly not be sloppy, but in this case it was sloppy and proceeded in a questionable way without full input from committees, and kind of invented some procedure as it went along. The result was an ordinance that a large part of the public distrusts,” Ganner said.

Resident Mike Denker told the assembly they had a “tremendous opportunity” to foster community cohesion by reconsidering the vote.

“We have 650 signatures of Haines residents who normally don’t see eye to eye on a lot of issues and these people are all walking the same way. Now, how often do we have that in this community? We don’t,” Denker said. “This issue has a silver lining, and that’s it. The public is walking together on this and I think the assembly has a tremendous opportunity tonight to foster that kind of environment in our community.”

Assembly member George Campbell, whose Sept. 22 refusal to vote on the ordinance generated a stir, thanked his fellow assembly members at the end of Tuesday’s meeting.  

“We don’t always do everything right. We don’t always get it right the first time. But I think today we showed a lot of pride and effort in our community by listening and stepping back and paying attention and being the statesmen that we need to be,” Campbell said.

It’s unclear how the make-up of the new committee tasked with tackling the minor offenses ordinance will be decided. Case suggested the group consist of no more than seven members.

Mayor Jan Hill said she will accept letters of interest from members of the public wishing to serve. Letters should be submitted by 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23.

The 35-page minor offenses ordinance, introduced in June, contains about 250 violations and accompanying fines. The borough administration claims the list doesn’t represent new rules or violations but compiles all existing rules in one place. Critics claim the ordinance substantially changes how laws are enforced and who can enforce them.