Concerns about undue noise dominate Mosquito Lake forum
September 21, 2023
Concerns about undue noise drew the strongest interest from viewers during the second public candidate forum, held in the upper valley Sunday night.
All five assembly candidates and one mayoral candidate faced questions from the audience and from host Mike Denker on topics including natural resources, taxes and undue noise at the Four Winds Resource Center at Mosquito Lake School.
Assembly candidates Natalie Dawson, Kevin Forster, Jerry Lapp, Diana Lapham, and Craig Loomis, who are collectively vying for three open seats, all attended. Tom Morphet was at the forum but his opponent Jan Hill couldn't make it because she was attending the Southeast Conference.
About 20 people showed up to the event, and the audience was especially engaged when candidates answered questions about undue noise. Several people piped up regarding their frustrations relating to the two heliport permits granted by the planning commission in the past year.
The planning commission approved a conditional use permit (CUP) for a Chilkat River Adventures heliport along the Chilkat River near Wells Bridge in December, and the decision was later reversed by the assembly in January. Similarly, in July, 21 Haines residents of Mile 26 submitted an appeal to the Alaska superior court, contesting the borough's decision not to rehear the granting of a heliport CUP in the area.
When asked what the definition of "undue noise" is, Loomis responded "if the majority of the people living in that area are against that noise, that is undue noise." Forster agreed.
Lapp and Lapham said the definition should be in code to make decisions more straightforward. Lapp's comparison of undue noise to noise made by airports elicited several strong responses from the audience.
As for potential solutions, Denker asked candidates if they would support noise abatement procedures. While all candidates were open to the idea, Lapp and Lapham brought up their concerns regarding enforcement. "Do we want to hire another position (for enforcement)?" asked Lapp. Morphet and Forster both suggested establishing and following preferential flight paths.
The topic of taxes revealed some ideological divides amongst candidates. "Taxes for the necessities and infrastructure that we use, not the giveaway program," said Lapham, who argued that nonprofits should be able to stand on their own two feet and not be continuously funded by borough money, while Morphet argued that nonprofits provide services that the government can't and voiced his support for funding nonprofits.
In response to the question of what are essential services that taxes should pay for, candidates had varying priorities. Morphet stated that "the bedrock of society is education."
Dawson identified essential services as "public services that no one else is going to provide for us." Loomis, Lapham and Forster all stated the need to ask the public what they consider essential, with Forster suggesting the borough use software programs like OpenGov, an internet-based program that shares information about government spending.
The candidates found a lot of common ground in the topic of natural resources, with all in support of fees being collected for the commercial use of Porcupine Poad. When asked if natural resources should be taxed, all were in strong support of severance taxes, except for Lapp and Lapham. Lapp pointed out that "Juneau doesn't put a severance tax on Kensington or Greens Creek, they tax properties and make more revenue that way." Lapham said that a severance tax could come about as discussions on a mining ordinance continue.