Kevin Stoddard explains a dispute over where snow berms were plowed on Monday, April 8.
Stoddard said the berm dispute felt like a proxy battle over a controversial heliport that was approved last year. (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)
Kevin Stoddard explains a dispute over where snow berms were plowed on Monday, April 8, in the Haines borough near 26 Mile. Stoddard said the berm dispute felt like a proxy battle in a fight between neighbors over a heliport in the area. (Lex Treinen/Chilkat Valley News)

A residential dispute about snow berms near a controversial heliport this spring resulted in a trooper issuing a disorderly conduct warning and animosity heating up between neighbors.

“I guarantee you it has to do with the heliport issue,” said Hans Baertle, who said his neighbor, George Campbell, blocked access to his house in a residential area across the bridge at 26 Mile with an eight-foot snow berm in February. 

Twenty-one residents are appealing a June decision by the Haines Borough Assembly to grant Campbell a one-year permit for a helicopter landing site. Campbell also is appealing the decision. The issue caused a stir at a recent meeting when the assembly voted to go into an executive session to meet with neighborhood group about resolving the suit. 

Kevin Stoddard, another neighbor who is not part of the appeal, said this winter’s dispute had ended their relationship.

“I’m really staying away from him and trying not to run into him. I just totally avoid him,” said Stoddard.

According to neighbors, the issue began as snow piled up in January. Stoddard, who has a house in the area, plowed a 30-foot easement and said he pushed snow as he usually does up against Campbell’s adjacent landing strip. 

Stoddard said Campbell asked him not to push snow in that area, and later in the day pushed snow up against Stoddard’s driveway. The next day, Stoddard said that Campbell came by his house and apologized. 

In February, as snow accumulated, the issue was raised again when Stoddard pushed a snow berm across a driveway across from the airstrip where Campbell has an aircraft hangar. Stoddard said he didn’t clear the berm because Campbell had previously asked him not to go onto his property and clearing all the snow would have required him to drive a loader on the driveway. Stoddard said the berm was small and wouldn’t have stopped a vehicle. 

On Feb. 13, Campbell sent an email to Stoddard asking him to remove the snow berm from the runway and from his driveway. 

“Please contact whomever did the loader work, or use your excavator to remove the snow pile from our runway,” wrote Campbell, according to the email, which Campbell shared with CVN. 

“F*** off and die,” replied Stoddard. 

Stoddard said he didn’t have any regrets about sending the email. 

“I don’t think so,” he said. “What else am I gonna say?”

On Feb. 24, Stoddard found a snow berm blocking the easement at the north end of the airstrip that he estimated to be 10 feet high. 

“I wouldn’t say it’s a snow berm, it’s a snow blockade,” said Baertle. 

Stoddard borrowed a neighbor’s loader to punch through the berm so that vehicles could fit through. 

On March 18, Campbell called the state troopers  “regarding an ongoing Civil issue with snow removal and access and utility easement.”

Trooper Colin Nemec arrived on the scene and after speaking with Baertle, Stoddard and Nathan Cote, another neighbor, gave Campbell a disorderly conduct warning. Nemec cited Alaska Statute 11.61.110 for issuing the warning, which prohibits creating “a hazardous condition for others by an act which has no legal justification or excuse.”

Nemec said he now considers the issue resolved. Campbell, in a brief phone call, said that he also considered the issue “old news.” 

For his part, he said he didn’t think the plowing dispute was about snow berms. He said it was a normal thing for neighbors in Haines to have those kinds of disputes, even though he hadn’t had them in the past. 

“Everybody in Haines gets all bent out of shape in the wintertime,” he said. “I can’t control what my neighbors think, I can only control myself.”

Stoddard and Baertle disagreed and said the dispute had added more fire to tensions in what was previously a pleasant neighborhood. 

Stoddard said his experience with this winter has pushed him to oppose Campbell in the future despite his history working with Campbell on construction projects. 

“I was the only one neutral in this heliport until he started messing with (the snow berms),” said Stoddard. “I don’t know if anybody’s ever stabbed me in the back as hard as George did.”