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Assembly set to talk tax cap

For the Daily News

A proposed ordinance to raise the sales tax “cap” is on the agenda for Monday’s regular meeting of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly.

A public hearing will be held for the ordinance before potential final approval to increase the borough sales tax “cap” from $1,000 to $2,000 on single-unit sales, with the exception of residential rent payments. If approved, this would be the first time the sales cap has been raised since 1978.  

During the last Assembly meeting on Aug. 5, Assembly members voted unanimously to introduce the ordinance proposed by Assembly Member Rodney Dial.

According to Dial’s sponsor statement for the proposed ordinance, sales tax revenues represent more than 40% of all general fund revenue into the Ketchikan Gateway Borough general fund each year. He wrote that since the city and borough have been unable to agree on increasing the cap, inflation has steadily decreased the buying power of the revenue being collected.

“While losing ground to compounding inflation of nearly 300%, the borough is also faced with ever-increasing labor costs, health insurance and pension costs, and an unwelcome need to compensate for the steadily decreasing state commitment to service its constitutional duty to fund public education statewide,” wrote Dial.

Concerned citizen Dan Bockhorst wrote a letter to the Assembly on Aug. 15, with concerns about the proposal’s potential effects on Ketchikan businesses and affordability for residents.

“One in four households in Ketchikan is now ‘very cost-burdened,’” wrote Bockhorst. “Occupants of those homes spend more than 35% of household income on housing and may be struggling to afford food, clothing, transportation, medical care, and other necessities. Moreover, the relative number of rental households in Ketchikan that are ‘very cost-burdened’ is 32% higher than Sitka and 46% higher than Juneau.”

If approved, the ordinance would become effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Two other public hearings also are scheduled for Monday’s meeting.

The Assembly will consider placing a proposed ordinance to establish an Old Dairy Road Service Area on the Oct. 1 municipal ballot, for voters residing within the proposed service area. After a citizen petition was filed by more than 40% of property owners, the 13-property area near mile 4 S. Tongass Highway would have a projected mill rate of 3.4 mills. The estimated annual budget for the service area is approximately $10,070 for construction, maintenance, and borough administrative fees.

The proposed service area was previously addressed on July 29 during a public hearing at Station 4 of the South Tongass Volunteer Fire Department. According to agenda materials for Monday’s meeting, the majority of the 12 attendees supported having the formation of the proposed service area be voted on by property owners.

“Those in attendance agreed that property owners — not tenants — should be allowed to decide the issue,” states agenda materials. “Unlike most other service areas in the Borough, the Old Dairy Road Service Area is comprised of commercial properties and the population is made up primarily of tenants, not property owners.”

If the ballot proposition is adopted by voters, the ordinance will be effective July 1, 2020.

The second public hearing will introduce proposed Ordinance 1893.

Elliot Enterprises LLC is requesting a rezone on a portion of land in the 7300 block of Imhoff Avenue from General Commercial to Heavy Industrial to allow a firearm manufacturing facility. The company also wants to create an outdoor firing range to test the manufactured firearms.

According to agenda materials, the borough Planning Department and Borough Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezone request. However, the borough manager and staff are recommending that the rezone request be denied, listing the following concerns in the agenda materials:

 • Under the General Commercial zone, a firearm manufacturing facility is an allowed use through a conditional use permit and does not require a rezone.

• “The area adjacent to and downrange from the proposed gun range is currently being used for a public walking tour path,”

• “The area adjacent to and downrange from the proposed gun range is being considered for rezone to residential, which may present a future incompatible use due to the proximity and direction of fire at the proposed gun range.”

• “The close proximity to the Ward Lake recreation area, as well as the proposed cruise ship development in Ward Cove, may present incompatible uses for the proposed gun range.”

• “A broader public notice area is recommended for the intended use of a gun range due to the community and noise impact.”

• “The (borough) code is currently silent on best practices, including standards and community interests regarding locations of gun ranges.”

• “The community need for an additional gun range has not been identified,” noting the existing gun range locate about three miles away could suit the needs of the applicant.

• “Adding a second gun range to the community should be a fully vetted process with a complete review for conformity with both the Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Map in order to identify the community's best interest.”

Each public hearing will include a staff presentation, public testimony, and staff summary to address questions asked during public testimony.

Also Monday, the Assembly has multiple items on its consent calendar.

Consent agenda items include appointing the election workers and the Canvass Board for the regular borough election on Oct. 1; authorizing the disposal of a 1986 Caterpillar IT28 front end loader through a competitive surplus sale process; establishing a sales tax holiday on Oct. 12, 2019; confirming Mayor David Landis’ appointment of Tom Carruth to the Mud Bight Service Area Board with a term of office ending June 30, 2022; and authorizing a reimbursement to Stephen Bradford for registration, airfare, and accommodations for attendance at the 2019 Southeast Conference annual conference in Sitka

Additionally, the Assembly’s consent agenda includes the proposed renewals of a state limited marijuana cultivation facility license for JWS ENTERPRISES, and a retail marijuana store license for Ayme Zantua with Cannabis Corner.

The Assembly meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Assembly chambers at 1900 First Ave. There will be time for public comment at the start of the meeting.