Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Sign law enforcement has shopkeepers seeing red

 


A recent decision by Haines Borough staff to begin enforcing a controversial sign law has already inflamed a Fort Seward business owner and prompted more discussion of the law at the Planning Commission level.

Debi Knight Kennedy, owner of Forget-Me-Not Gallery on Tower Road, is appealing a notice by the borough to remove her business’s off-premises sign. Knight Kennedy said in an appeal letter to clerk Julie Cozzi and planning and zoning technician Tracy Cui that her sign is placed with property owner Lee Heinmiller’s permission on the corner of Alaska Indian Arts. It is critical to the operation of her business, Knight Kennedy said.

“Without that sign, customers cannot find my gallery and I would be effectively out of business, a business that provides a full half of my income. It is a challenging thing, to make one’s living as a working artist. A challenge that I find worth the effort for the gratification it brings me personally and the gifts, I believe, it brings to our community,” Knight Kennedy said.

The borough has been wrestling with its sign ordinance for the past four years. Former assembly member Debra Schnabel proposed a draft ordinance to address the issue, but the ordinance is stuck in committee. That lack of resolution prompted manager David Sosa’s recent decision to enforce the existing law.

Knight Kennedy said she was “distressed” by the timing of the borough’s April 16 letter to business owners telling them to remove their off-premises signs, as cruise ship season is around the corner. “This is no time to stir the pot,” she said.

“(The sign) is not on the sidewalk. It does not impede pedestrian or vehicle traffic. It is attractive and garners many smiles and positive comments from tourists who find their way to my gallery because of it,” Knight Kennedy added.

The planning commission is scheduled to hold a hearing on Knight Kennedy’s appeal at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 14.

Schnabel addressed the assembly at its meeting last week, offering her assistance with the ordinance and expressing confusion as to why it is still languishing in committee.

“As an assembly member, I tackled it, and now it is stuck in the bureaucracy,” she said this week.

Schnabel used Skagway’s ordinance as a reference and drafted a nine-page piece of sign legislation for Haines, though commissioners criticized the ordinance for being lengthy and cumbersome.

“I kept it as tight as I could, given the complexity of the situation,” Schnabel said. “That’s not to say it’s the best ordinance in the world, but I spent a good number of hours in my office late at night reading and working and writing on that darn ordinance, and I felt fairly good about it.”

 
 

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