Citing concerns about safety and added congestion Monday, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly unanimously rejected a request to rezone a parcel in the Herring Cove area from low-density residential to general commercial.
The applicant wanted to offer items for sale to the many tourists who visit the area each summer. Bear viewing is particular popular in Herring Cove, which is home to an active salmon stream.
Planning Director Tom Williams had recommended approving the rezone. He says the borough would study how the small business affects the neighborhood. However, Chris Boyette, a resident of that area, said congestion already affects the neighborhood, and he believes an added business there would make the problem worse.
Boyette, a local attorney, said most people are reluctant to speak out and potentially offend a neighbor.
“Myself, I happen to be engaged in a career where I’m usually offending somebody,” he said. “It’s not what I want to do, but it’s just what I have to do for a living. I know some people are not going to like what I’m doing here, but I also know quite a few residents on Powerhouse Road that really don’t want to see this happen.”
Assembly Member Agnes Moran questioned the wisdom of changing the zoning designation before studying the needs of the area.
“This is an established neighborhood that’s low-density residential,” she said. “They’ve been severely impacted by this increase in tourism here. I think before we add any more complexity to what these folks are facing, we need to know exactly what we’re dealing with.”
Assembly Member Mike Painter agreed, and said Herring Cove residents experience the pains of tourism already, and the tourism industry wasn’t stepping up with any helpful suggestions.
“Property owners are having their property trespassed upon, urinated upon, and so on and so forth,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe what goes on out there in the summertime. It has turned the residential mood of the area upside down.”
Other Assembly members suggested that the Planning Department work with the neighborhood residents to come up with a plan that would improve safety in Herring Cove. Glen Thompson added that the borough could ask the state to make that stretch of South Tongass Highway a no-parking zone, which would keep tour buses from parking right next to the road.
Also Monday, the Assembly introduced an ordinance to appropriate about $6.8 million for school facilities upgrades. The public hearing and final vote is set for the next regular Assembly meeting, which is April 15.