By Aly De Angelus –

Skagway’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan is on hold until another survey is conducted to get more engagement from the community.

Assembly member Steve Burnham Jr. proposed the survey as an amendment to the comp plan ordinance at the Feb. 6 borough assembly meeting, and the assembly March 5 approved spending an additional $10,000 for the work.

Burnham said the town typically has an end survey for its comprehensive plan that allows community members to prioritize issues, separate from the polls conducted by the plan’s contractor, Juneau-based Sheinberg Associates. The survey usually calls participants by phone at random to ensure the results include a wide sampling, including introverted citizens.

“It’s not necessarily fully inclusive from a major cross section of the community,” Burnham said of the polls already included with the plan. “There is no level of support included in the comp plan to indicate where the assembly should prioritize public funds.”

Assembly member David Brena agreed with Burnham at the Feb. 6 meeting and said the additional survey is a necessary decision-making tool. Assemblyman Orion Hanson opposed the motion, along with Assembly member Dustin Stone. Stone later voiced support for the survey at the March 5 meeting.

“Since that (Feb. 6) meeting I have heard more public input that people would like to see this survey,” Stone said. “The cost doesn’t seem to be too extreme and I think we have the time to do it, but this is the last time I would vote to do more public polling on something we have polled pretty heavily so far.”

Hanson, who is also assembly liaison for the Planning and Zoning Commission, expressed his frustration with the additional survey at the Feb. 13 commission meeting.

“This was some of the best attendance (in the original polls) that I’ve ever seen,” Hanson said. “I tried to relay that to them (the assembly).”

He said the assembly decision is not “a huge setback.”

Planning Commission Vice Chair Matt Deach likened the situation to a one-time presidential election. “There is a reason you don’t have a presidential election and an election following for those who didn’t have time to go to the first election,” Deach said at the Feb. 13 meeting. “I appreciate the sentiment, but that’s not a very effective use of anybody’s time.”

The community survey will be held before the comp plan ordinance comes back to the assembly for consideration.

Assembly approves yurt ordinance

The borough assembly on Feb. 20 adopted a change in municipal code to make it easier for people to use yurts as permanent housing but amended the ordinance to prohibit yurts east of the Skagway River and South of 23rd Avenue.

The ordinance redefines “yurt” to satisfy permanent building requirements in municipal code to allow another housing option. The motion to prohibit yurts in some areas passed unanimously. Assembly member Steve Burnham Jr. proposed the restriction in an effort to prevent confusion from the boundary line in the original ordinance — east of the Moore Bridge. Burnham suggested the more prominent and clear boundary line of the streets to help prevent any disputes.

“I don’t think it (yurts) will be very prevalent with the land cost in Skagway,” Assembly member Orion Hanson said, noting that he was indifferent to the boundary definition.

Assembly adopts crosswalk locations process

Skagway School’s robotics team, the Krosswalk Kangaroos, developed and presented a crosswalk analysis study to the Public Safety Committee and borough assembly, which has been incorporated in the establishment and approval process for crosswalk locations in town.

The assembly adopted the resolution by unanimous vote Feb. 20. School Board Vice President Jaime Bricker spoke on behalf of the students.

“I have followed this project from the start,” Bricker said. “The robotics team actually interviewed me for this project when they first got started. I am a huge proponent for our youth and education and what you’ve done in this is show them that they do have a voice, they do have power in their own community and that’s huge. I am glad to see this moving forward.”

Philip Clark will chair planning and zoning

The Planning and Zoning Commission elected Philip Clark as chairman and outgoing chair Matt Deach as vice chairman at its Feb. 13 meeting.

Deach began the formal discussion with enthusiasm and humor. “Well, it’s a comfy chair,” he said.

Commissioner Richard “Rocky” Outcalt followed suit with his light-hearted comment. “I would like to entertain a motion to elect Gary Hisman, whether he likes it or not, to serve as chairman,” Outcalt said.

Hisman declined the nomination due to his lack of energy for the position. He also said 2021 will likely be his last year as a commission member.

“Matt has done an incredible job at showing how experience and knowledge is important,” Clark said. “The current chairman’s shoes are too big for me to fill but I would do my best.”

The motion to elect Clark as chairman was unanimous. Deach submitted his name as vice chairman to help ease Clark’s transition.

Assemblyman Jay Burnham asks to call in for meetings during cancer treatment

Assembly member Jay Burnham announced March 5 he was recently diagnosed with throat cancer. Burnham requested the assembly allow him to call in for a few more meetings, with members unanimously approving a motion to accommodate call-ins until Burnham completes his treatment.

“On the day of the last assembly meeting (Feb. 20) I was in Anchorage having my tonsils removed and I was diagnosed with Stage 2 throat cancer,” Burnham said. “As bad as that sounds, my doctor assured me the prognosis was pretty good, however, the treatment was described as very hard.”

Burnham said treatment consists of three rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of daily radiation treatments. He will be in Anchorage for at least two months.

“I am not sure how the treatment will affect me or my health or my ability to call in, but I am hoping not to miss a meeting, including committee meetings,” he said.

“I am certainly all in favor of it to make those accommodations,” Assembly member Dan Henry said. “Jay has been for us here at the table and certainly is an asset within the community.”