May 23, 2019
Employee housing rejected
In a 3-2 vote last week, the Haines Borough Assembly rejected an ordinance that aimed to define approval criteria and allowable zones for employee housing in a 3-2 vote.
Under current code, “living quarters necessary for caretakers, guards, and overnight employee accommodations” is allowable without restriction under the definition of “accessory use,” language borough planner Holly Smith said creates a loophole where large-scale employee housing is allowable borough-wide.
The Planning Commission and Government Affairs and Services Committee worked on the ordinance over the past year to set parameters for employee housing.
The failed ordinance defined employee housing as “on-site housing for two or more workers or interns employed by the on-site business,” required a minimum of 20 working hours a week, compliance with Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) standards, building type and zoning areas.
Last month, the assembly amended the ordinance by removing “temporary structures” from allowable housing, including RVs, trailers and motor homes.
Assembly members Stephanie Scott and Lende said they supported regulation of sub-standard employee housing conditions in Haines.
“The part that I didn’t like was the idea of sub-standard trailers or tents or things that might lead an unscrupulous employer to take advantage of people,” Lende said.
Assembly member Will Prisciandaro voted against the ordinance, saying the exclusion of temporary structures would leave seasonal employees and employers in a bind. “My dilemma with removing temporary structures is, if we do that now, what are we going to do with all the people that are in temporary structures?”
Assembly member Sean Maidy disagreed with regulating employee housing for the affects it might have on year-round residents that already have difficulty seeking affordable housing.
“The availability of housing is damn near invisible, says the McDowell report,” Maidy said, citing the economic study of Haines conducted last year.
Assembly member Tom Morphet said Tuesday he would reluctantly vote in favor of the ordinance, but changed his vote at the last minute to oppose it.
“I’m not sure we have a jam-packed housing market in Haines or, in the case that we do, that new provisions for bunkhouses on commercial properties is the way to fix it,” he said.
Smith said the vote against employee housing could be risky for the borough. “Because the assembly did not pass the fix to the loophole, right now we have a situation where, potentially, employee housing is allowed in every single zone,” she said. “If the assembly truly does not want temporary employee housing, they would need to fix this loophole.”
Assembly supports Ocean Ranger program
The Haines Borough Assembly adopted a resolution May 14 supporting environmental inspectors aboard cruise ships against potential repeal in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget.
Voters approved the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Ocean Rangers program began in a 2006 ballot initiative. Haines’ Gershon Cohen was one of its authors. A $4 per passenger state tax funds the program.
Ocean Rangers are marine engineers, certified by the Coast Guard or another accredited maritime institution and placed on vessels of 250 passengers or more. They use checklists to monitor compliance with state and federal requirements “to ensure that passengers, crew, and residents at ports are protected from improper sanitation, health, and safety practices,” according to the resolution.
The ordinance was introduced by assembly members Heather Lende and Will Prisciandaro. “I think it’s an important program to have a second set of eyes on the cruise ship industry,” Prisciandaro said on Tuesday.
Lende said the resolution is almost identical to the one Skagway passed earlier this month, but widens the scope of responsibility to protect health and safety to extend to commercial, subsistence and sports fisheries, as well as its residents.
“The cruise industry is one vital component of Haines’ economy, and the Haines Borough must balance its facilitation of the cruise industry with its responsibilities to protect the health and safety of its commercial, subsistence, and sports fisheries, and those of its residents,” the resolution reads.
The cruise ship industry has a history of illegal dumping in Alaskan waters. In 1999, Royal Caribbean Cruises paid $6.5 million in fines for pumping about 70 gallons of dry-cleaning and photo-processing chemicals into the Lynn Canal between Haines and Skagway.
Last month, Carnival Cruise Corp. violated probation after the company pleaded guilty to illegally dumping oil into the ocean and lying about it to authorities.
Last summer, Carnival’s subsidiary company’s Holland America’s ship, the Westerdam, illegally dumped 26,000 gallons of greywater in Glacier Bay National Park.
The Noordam, also a Holland America ship, was cited for dumping untreated greywater in Juneau and other locations, according to a 2018 Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation cruise ship wastewater report.
In May 2018, the small cruise line UnCuise’s Wilderness Adventurer, the most frequent ship that docks in Haines, exceeded its fecal coliform bacteria limit.
Ben Kirkpatrick spoke in favor of the resolution on Tuesday. “The cruisers are in business to make as much money as they can, and corners have been cut,” he said.
Mud Bay resource extraction ban advances
At the first public hearing on May 10 for an ordinance that would ban resource extraction in the Mud Bay rural residential zone and the cannery zone, more than 14 community members testified in favor of the law, and another six wrote-in expressing support.
Resident Cesily Stern, who helped established the Mud Bay rural residential zone in 1986, said it was an omission not to include resource extraction conditions. “It never occurred to us anyone would want to do that to our rural residential zone,” she said.
In February, more than 120 Mud Bay residents and 40 non-residents signed a petition against resource extraction after the Haines Borough Planning Commission reversed course and advanced a code change that would have allowed resource extraction by conditional use permit in the zoning district.
The following month, the Government Affairs and Services Committee, with advice from planner Holly Smith, presented a second version of the ordinance for the assembly to introduce as a substitute ordinance.
“Resource extraction” is defined in the substitute ordinance as heavy industrial use involving the removal of natural resources from a property, not including the removal of material incidental to construction or repair.
The ordinance is scheduled for its second public hearing May 23.