Haines Assembly votes to restrict yurts and container homes on smaller properties

The Haines Borough Administration building. (Photo by Emily Files/KHNS)

The Haines Assembly has voted to restrict non-traditional dwellings like yurts and container homes on lots smaller than a half acre. They would be allowed in residential zones on properties of a half acre or more.

It’s a water-downed version of the total ban in the townsite that was recommended by the planning commission.

Assemblymember Gabe Thomas told KHNS that the idea came from looking at parcel maps.

“I was looking at going wow, there’s a lot of land out here — two, three acre lots, five acre lots,” Thomas said. “But it was all included in single family zoning areas, and it made no sense to me to say, Hey, why can’t they build out there?”

The original proposal would have completely banned new yurts and container homes to outside the townsite – rural residential and rural mixed use. The new version allows them in the single family residential zone, which includes neighborhoods like Highland, Skyline and Cathedral View.

For smaller properties of less than half an acre, or the waterfront zone, residents would have to apply for a conditional use permit to be approved by the planning commission.

That means property owners would have to fill out an application, pay a $150 fee and send notices out to all neighbors within 500 yards. Neighbors would have a chance to weigh in on the proposal, and it would be approved or denied by the planning commission.

If the planning commission denies the permit, residents would be able to appeal to the Haines assembly.

But not everyone was on board with the plan. Haines Assemblymember Tyler Huling opposed restricting non-traditional housing. She says yurts are often a more affordable housing option for people starting out in Haines.

“This is just a bad PR move for Haines,” Huling said. “It’s a bad look. From my perspective, and I understand that other people see it really differently. But as a young person who’s trying to build a life in this community, it’s just like, not an appealing prospect to have any sort of personal lifestyle choices limited in this way, that are singled out and not really applied to other forms.”

The Assembly passed the measure 4-2. with Assemblymember Catie Kirby also cast a no vote.

Proponents of the measure had argued that non-traditional housing could hurt property values. That was the reasoning that led planning commissioners to make their recommendation.

Haines resident Nick Schlosstein, who lived in a yurt for five years while he and his partner developed their business, says he’s not sure what has been accomplished in a community that already struggles with affordable housing.

“I am still unclear as to what problem that it’s solving,” Schlosstein said. “There’s a lot of properties in town that are under that size. And so it sounds like it’s more of a way just to limit it without saying that.”

Existing container homes and fabric-covered structures like yurts are grandfathered in, but the measure goes into effect immediately.

KHNS - Haines

KHNS is our partner station in Haines. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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