Citizens filled City Hall during a Sept. 18 Borough Assembly meeting to contest the possibility of White Pass expanding its caboose shop on the Railroad Dock.
A notice was addressed to all Skagway business owners, employees and citizens, outlining why White Pass’s lease should not be extended and how the expansion of the caboose would hurt the town.
The notice stated that WP&YR plans to build a 3,000 square foot gift shop and coffee bar at the north end of the Railroad Dock, spanning across passenger entry point.
It compared the caboose to a ride at a theme park, forcing guests to walk through a gift shop at the exit.
“So White Pass gets a shot at the visitor going both ways!” the notice said.
Gayla Hites told the assembly that retail is restricted along the waterfront zone and noted that the caboose is in violation of borough code by selling merchandise inside.
Steve Hites took the side of the customer and said herding them through a gift shop flies in the face of what the customer wants.
Hites said we will be at the mercy of the customer and questioned whether they will want to return to Skagway in the future at all.
“It’s about the very future of Alaska cruising,” Hites said.
Dennis Corrington agreed with Hites and called the possible caboose a “herding corral.”
Corrington said the caboose will cause businesses to go under and promised that more for-rent signs will be seen along Broadway if the caboose is built.
“It’s a carnage on Broadway,” Corrington said.
Tyler Rose, WP&YR Director of Safety & Labor Relations, said there is nothing set in stone.
“What I love about this town is that it’s a passionate town. It’s an emotional town,” Rose said. “Sometimes we have the tendency to put the cart before the horse.”
Rose said White Pass is looking at possibilities and noted that they would be irresponsible business owners if they didn’t.
He said White Pass wants to talk to people and hear their concerns.
“When misinformation comes out, we can damage each other,” Rose said.
Assemblyman Dan Henry said that the assembly has no information on the subject and that if it becomes an issue, people can appeal it.
“You have to revert back to code and policy,” Henry said. “You will have more than an opportunity to address anything.”– EG