By Melinda Munson

After months of discussion and controversy, the Skagway Borough Assembly voted 4-2 on June 3 to allow Skagway residents free off-season use of the Dyea Flats Cabin. According to Resolution 20-16R, the no-frills cabin will be reserved each year from April 15 to October 15 solely for a campground host, with residents able to utilize the structure the rest of the year.

Assemblymembers Sam Bass and Steve Burnham voted against the measure. Bass proposed tabling the vote. 

“I think we should not consider this motion until we give the Dyea Advisory Board time to review and offer their expertise on this issue,” Bass said. No one seconded his motion.

“We have talked about this for two years, in committees, several committees…” said Assemblymember Orion Hanson. “Their committees make suggestions. They make reports, and then it comes up to the assembly and we synthesize that.”

The Dyea Community Advisory Board (DCAB) has maintained that “recreational cabins should be off the road system.” Orion pointed out that the road to the cabin is not plowed in the winter.

At the beginning of the meeting, several Dyea residents and members of the advisory board testified against the cabin, questioning if the municipality followed permitting rules. 

Planning and Zoning was scheduled to hear a conditional use application “to maintain a campground with a host cabin as an accessory use” at the May 13 meeting, months after the cabin was installed. At the same meeting, they were also scheduled to consider a second conditional use permit to “request to operate three recreational cabins within the Dyea Campground.” Both applications were cancelled.

“We pulled them all back because of potential litigation,” said Borough Manager Brad Ryan. 

Resident Maureen Stacy noted the cabin has propane tanks and no back door. None of the recreational cabins owned by the municipality possess back doors.

Some residents expressed concern that letting out the cabin, even for free, went against the 2010 Dyea Flats Management Plan which states prohibited uses under Section D: “Commercial activities including tours not permitted, rentals, retail sales or any other uses where compensation is made or offered.”

“We (the municipality) are not a commercial entity,” said Ryan. “We’re not out there to make profit. We’re out there to be a community resource.”

Fred and Kathy Hosford continue to assert that the Dyea dry cabin rental will hurt their business, the Chilkoot Trail Outpost, a full-service recreational cabin facility.

“I will say it again, the MOS should not compete with local businesses,” they wrote in a June 1 letter to the city.

Jay Burnham, assemblymember and liaison to the DCAB, said he considered those who are disabled when he voted for residents using the cabin off-season.

“I saw that as a very good thing, to have an accessible cabin … The amount of support from the town for that to be a rental was incredible. I don’t think it’s a competition thing. I don’t think we’re going to get into the lodging business. I think it’s just a good thing to do for the community.”

Members of the DCAB left as soon as Resolution 21-16R passed. Board vice-chair Michael Yee described the cabin process as “haphazard.”

Board member Wayne Greenstreet voiced frustration, saying he felt Dyea residents were “disrepected” when not consulted about off-season use of the cabin.

At the close of the meeting, the assembly approved the hire of a Dyea Flats Campground Host for the 2021 season. The host, who is from Washington, will reside in her RV, not the much discussed host cabin. In exchange for host duties, the manager will be reimbursed no more than $1,500 for travel to Skagway (driving) and no more than $5,500 for a return ferry ride home.