By Aly De Angelus
After more than a year of work, Skagway’s 2030 comprehensive plan is at its last stop — the borough assembly, which was scheduled to consider the ordinance in first reading on Feb. 6 and then likely take up final passage Feb. 20.
Juneau-based consultants Barbara Sheinberg, of Sheinberg Associates, and Aaron Ferguson, of Spruce Root Community Development, tag-teamed their presentation of the plan via phone at a Jan. 23 special meeting of the Skagway Planning and Zoning Commission, which unanimously approved the comp plan, moving it to the assembly.
“We are obviously really sorry we can’t be there in person tonight because there were a lot of cold winter nights and it’s really the time to celebrate,” Sheinberg said, referring to the community’s work on the comp plan this past year. “I would have wanted to invite everyone out and buy everyone drinks.”
Sheinberg and Ferguson’s presentation was broken into two parts. The first half was spent recognizing the hard labor and calculated research dedicated to Skagway’s 2030 plan, through community outreach and data analysis.
Ferguson said the firm met a dozen times, including three work sessions with the commission as well as public meetings to determine residents’ top priorities for the next decade. Through online polling and in-person feedback, two main issues became the core for Skagway’s plan: port development and revitalizing the Skagway Recreation Center.
“We are just now reflecting on how much effort that we put in,” Ferguson said. The firm utilized a number of surveying methods, measuring 1,300 Facebook views, votes at community events, e-letter subscribers, and other supporting surveys. Sheinberg kicked off the second half of the team’s presentation, explaining to commissioners and the five residents in attendance how to use the plan. “We kind of have two plans in one,” she said, referring to the action plan as the second part.
The comprehensive plan is longer, with chapters of current data and an outlook on future plans. The action plan was prepared at the request of the municipality, which wants to have something to look at when reviewing project proposals and conditional-use permits.
Over and over again, Sheinberg said the community stressed the need for balance this past year, a caveat that led to the addition of a “triple bottom line” (TBL) to Skagway’s 2030 plan.
“It’s really just saying that each time there’s a development permit, or an action in front of the assembly, to think about how its physical, social and economic impacts apply in Skagway,” she said. “There is no magic pill, but the TBL is really the thing that will help Skagway become more resilient.”
The presentation ended with examples of when the comprehensive plan can be helpful for the town, such as tweaking application protocol for conditional-use permits, inserting text into requests for state funding and responding to the federal or state government. Having an adopted plan makes it harder for the state and federal government to ignore the community, Sheinberg said.
Following the presentation’s close, only one resident got up to speak. “This is an amazing document,” said William Lockhead, a Skagway resident since 2011.
“There is a really clear picture of what they are trying to do, and all of that was driven by just a small percentage of Skagway that actually responded,” he said. “It looks to absolutely benefit Skagway … in pretty much every way over the course of the next 10 years..”
“This is certainly a living document,” Commissioner Gary Hisman said Jan. 23. “I am certain that when it gets sent on to the assembly they will have some changes to make. I am certain that there will be changes over time,” he said. “I think this is well worth it.”