Longtime resident, historian honored by municipality

Mayor Mark Schaefer presents Karl Gurcke with a proclamation thanking him for his service at a Historic District Commission meeting in July. PHOTO BY DAN FOX

Karl Gurcke, a historian for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, was recently recognized by Mayor Mark Schaefer for longstanding service to the municipality and community. First working for the National Parks Service as a seasonal archaeologist in 1984, Gurcke returned to Skagway in the following years until he was taken on in a full-time capacity in 1987.

He has also held a position on the Skagway Historic District Commission since 1990.

The proclamation, presented by Schaefer at a recent Historic District Commission meeting, states Gurcke has “contributed hundreds of hours safeguarding the cultural, social, economic, political and architectural history of the community though his service on the Commission.”

“It’ll be tough, whoever follows in his shoes,” Schaefer said in an interview. “The park in general – people like Karl, but the park service as a whole – the volumes of information that they come up with, discover, archive and are the keepers of, it’s massive, it’s just massive.”

Borough Manager considered for jobs outside Alaska

Skagway Borough Manager Scott Hahn is being considered for a position in Cave Creek, Arizona.

Hahn said he wants to be closer to his family living in Colorado; his son is going to be a sophomore in high school, and Hahn said he wants to be there for his family more often.

“So that’s a big driver for me, I really do love it here, but I’ve got to think about it, this is my last chance with him and then he’s going to be gone,” Hahn said.

Hahn had been considered for a position in Vail, Colorado, but did not get the job. Travel expenses from Skagway to Colorado are another consideration.

“It’s $160 round trip to fly to Denver [from Cave Creek], where as here, I spend almost that just to get to Juneau one way,” Hahn said. Hahn said he is being selective as to where he is looking for positions.

“I’m not going everywhere, I’m just selecting some areas, if it works out, it works out, if it doesn’t, then I’m here and I love it here and the staff, we all like each other – it’s a great place,” Hahn said.

Filing for October election opening soon

There are several seats soon to be up-for-grabs in the upcoming Oct. 3 elections.

One of these is the position of mayor, a two-year term. While filing doesn’t open until July 31, Mayor Mark Schaefer said he does plan to run again. Also at the Borough Assembly level, two assembly seats are also up for re-election. The seats in question are currently held by assembly members Spencer Morgan and Monica Carlson. Morgan and Carlson had no comment on whether they would run again in October.

Both Morgan and Carlson were selected by the assembly to fill unfinished terms. Morgan was appointed in November 2016 to fill the seat vacated when former Assembly Member Dan Henry resigned.

More recently, Carlson was installed as the newest addition to the assembly following the resignation of former Assembly Member Angela Grieser in early May.

In addition to the municipal positions opening up, two school board seats will also be on the ballot. Cara Cosgrove said she will be running for her seat once more. Mary Tidlow said she does not plan to run again.

The Skagway Traditional Council – for which elections are held every September – will also have five seats open: council chairman, vice chairman, secretary, treasurer and member at large. These positions are decided amongst the council after members are elected. Tribal Council elections are on Sept. 21.

Parking changes on Fourth

A resolution amending parking on Fourth Avenue was approved 6-0 by the Borough Assembly on July 20.

Per the resolution, the north side of Fourth – beginning 50 feet from the corner of Spring Street and continuing west for 50 feet – has been changed to 20-minute parking.

Music for Maggio liquor license approved

Skagway’s Borough Assembly granted a liquor license to the Skagway Arts Council (SAC) for its annual Music for Maggio event, which serves as a fundraiser for the Chris Maggio Scholarship.

The event is set to take place at Dedman Stage on Saturday, Aug. 12. Beer and wine will be served in a sectioned-off beer garden from 5-11 p.m.

SAC is permitted five special event liquor licenses per calendar year, and the Music for Maggio represents the third one granted.

The assembly approved the request 6-0.

Ordinance to allow higher density housing approved

Housing availability is a frequent topic before Skagway’s Borough Assembly. At a July 6 meeting, the assembly passed an ordinance on first reading that could potentially make an impact on that issue.

The ordinance amends municipal code in the Residential-General Zone to increase the allowable density. Per the ordinance, single units, duplexes and triplexes are now allowed on 5,000-square-foot lots, for a total density of 16 units per 40,000 square feet.

Multiple-family dwellings containing three or more units are listed as conditionally approved uses under the new ordinance.

The measure has been talked about at the Planning and Zoning Commission level for a few years, according to Assembly Member Orion Hanson, and would help encourage private developments.

“We know the topography here – it’s steep, it’s not going to be flat and that’s our problem,” Hanson said. “And I think this is a step in the right direction.”

Assembly Member Monica Carlson said she felt the minimum lot requirement of 1,650 square feet for dwellings of four, five or six people (1,650 per dwelling unit) was “a lot,” and that the number could be dropped to 1,000 or 1,200 square feet to help make housing more affordable.

Hanson said he didn’t disagree that the code could allow more density, but argued the fairness of putting high-density housing near traditional single-family style lots.

“We’re not Brooklyn, we are Skagway, so I think there’s a balancing point,” Hanson said.

The ordinance passed first reading 5-0 on July 6 (Assembly Member Spencer Morgan absent), and returned before the assembly two weeks later at the July 20 meeting where it garnered a few more comments.

Morgan said that Skagway has appropriately zoned areas for things like triplexes.

“There is a need for greater density and I understand that,” Morgan said. “It does go against the way I feel we should go about it, but I just think we’re getting to a situation where we’re getting our backs against the wall with what we’ve got to do.”

Assembly Member Tim Cochran said the ordinance has been a long time coming.

“Housing has been a problem for years and years, and this is at least a step in the right direction for trying to alleviate that,” Cochran said.

Also on July 20, Hanson commented that he thinks it is important to keep using the conditional use permit process on something as significant as density.

“And this does that, so I think this is a responsible way to change traditional use of how houses are built in Skagway without completely rocking the boat,” Hanson said.

The assembly approved the ordinance on second reading 6-0.

– DF