By Leigh Armstrong

The Municipality of Skagway is considering amending its zoning code to prohibit categorizing two mobile or modular homes connected with a breezeway as a duplex. Developers have looked to the duplex classification as a way to build more housing on lots restricted to a single structure.

Currently, no mobile homes are allowed south of 15th Avenue, while the zoning code imposes a limit of one modular home per lot. 

By building a breezeway between two modular homes, developers are trying to classify the buildings as one.

“The aspect of being able to do this at the cheapest cost you can, I get that. Building is very expensive in this town,” Assemblymember Orion Hanson said.

The code doesn’t specifically prohibit creating a duplex with a breezeway, Philip Clark, of the planning and zoning commission, told the municipal assembly May 2. The first reading of the zoning code change passed 6-0, with a public hearing and further assembly consideration set for May 16.

“(The loophole) kind of slipped under the radar,” Assemblymember Tim Cochran said.

Clark cited an example of the development on 6th Avenue that took four modular homes on one lot to create two duplexes, as well as two more similar duplexes planned on 16th Avenue.

“A lot of this has to do with the aesthetics of these structures,” Clark said. “Is this something that we want to stick our feet into?”

Assemblymember Dave Brena said his objections to the breezeway-connected homes was based mainly on the look, though he wouldn’t object to them being built north of 15th Avenue.

“From the outside, they look like trailers,” Brena said. “The historic district is important, but so is the immediately surrounding residential area.”

Hanson said while it’s a looks issue, he acknowledges it’s part of the community responding to the housing shortage.

“The outside of homes looks like a trailer, but inside it’s decent housing,” Hanson said.

The longevity of the buildings also was questioned at the May 2 assembly meeting, and whether they would still be viable as full-time housing years later.

“As a builder, I have first-hand experience of how difficult it is for single-family people to get a loan,” Hanson said. “I think getting a loan on a premanufactured house that’s on a slab that’s skirted and still has a trailer underneath it in 30 or 40 years is probably next to non-existent,” Hanson said.

With few remaining lots available in Skagway, Hanson said his concern was not based on looks, but rather how it would limit options for dealing with the expected growth coming to Skagway. The 2030 Comprehensive Plan projects that Skagway’s highest growth will come from with families with children.