A conditional use permit granted by the Skagway Planning and Zoning Commission for a retail marijuana dispensary on Third Avenue has caused a stir among nearby property owners.
The permit, requested by Tara Bass, was approved by P&Z on April 14, and according to Chair Orion Hanson, had no opposition from the public.
But during a June 2 assembly meeting, property owners complained that they had not received proper notice.
Averill Harp, owner of Dedman’s Photo Shop on Broadway Street, voiced her concerns, saying she received notice of P&Z’s hearing after the fact, and feared that the retail shop would have a huge impact on such a highly trafficked area.
“For many years we have been trying to cultivate our reputation here as a historic gold rush town, where people can be safe and bring their families,” she said. “[You] really need to think about that. What is that going to say to our tourists? It’s a very public place, and it’s residential.”
To mitigate additional foot traffic, Bass’s application states the intent to build an eight-foot-high privacy fence to completely encompass the lot on all sides but the front, which faces Third Avenue. Bass declined to comment.
Betsy Albecker, owner of Granny’s Gold Rush Gallery on State Street, agreed with Harp and said that the area is not used by tourists alone, but by residents too. Albecker, however, received notice two days prior to the hearing but forgot to attend.
“Every summer somebody in our neighborhood ends up having to call the police because the summer residents are out in the alley having a fine time, smoking dope, and getting high and being a little too noisy,” she said. “And when they’re noisier than the Red Onion, they’re pretty noisy.”
Both Albecker and Harp questioned how the permit was approved so quietly.
P&Z Commissioner Rocky Outcalt said he had been approached by various community members, who said they had not received notice in time for the hearing.
“If they did not receive their letters in time, then we need to reassess what we did,” Outcalt said. “I think that’s important to the community that they have a fair share and have an opportunity to be here.”
Outcalt is owner of the Klondike Doughboy on Third Avenue. He said he did not receive a letter, and as a business owner, he is concerned about the proposed retail dispensary.
“I personally don’t agree with it,” he said. “I don’t agree with it being sold in town. I have a moral issue. I see a degradation of society happening here.”
Outcalt voted favorably on the conditional use permit in April.
Borough clerk Emily Deach said generally, letters would go out 10 days prior to a conditional use permit on the agenda, but couldn’t say for sure what date the letters went out.
Skagway Deputy Clerk Michelle Gihl said she could not confirm when or if letters had been sent to nearby properties. With staff out of town, and former permitting official David Van Horn now gone, she said knowing what was or was not sent is unclear.
Hanson said the commission does not handle notices and isn’t sure if they went out.
“These people who have raised concerns, if they weren’t given that part of due process, that’s definitely a concern,” he said.
Skagway Assemblyman Spencer Morgan said the notice was posted publicly, in the municipality and in this case, was posted by the state for 60 days.
“It was on the boards around town for six or seven days… maybe eight days before the actual meeting,” he said.
Deach said Harp was advised to write borough manager Scott Hahn a letter with her concerns, but nothing was received.
The 10-day process to appeal the application has passed, so there may not be a legal way to revisit the permit without taking it to court, Deach said.
“There is duty by the public too,” Schaefer said. “They need to pay attention. As long as we’re doing our notices, and not just notices, but sending out letters…”
Approval by the municipality does not mean guaranteed licensing. The retail shop will still need approval from the state’s Marijuana Control Board and will need to comply with all state regulations. Local governments have 60 days from the time the application is received to file a complaint with the state. Each permit will be reviewed annually by the state.