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11/2/2019
Sales tax idea tops agenda

By SAM STOCKBRIDGE
Daily News Staff Writer

Monday’s Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting agenda includes a proposed agreement to join a commission of municipalities to collect sales tax on remote online purchases. The Assembly also will discuss approving new zoning definitions and regulations for firing ranges, and a rezoning proposal on southeast Gravina Island. In addition, the borough intends to write a letter expressing concerns about the designation of critical habitat for humpback whales.

Online sales tax agreement

The Assembly will discuss entering an agreement to join a commission of municipalities with the goal of collecting online sales tax from retailers with no physical presence in the borough. Until a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June 2018, the borough could only collect sales taxes from retailers with a physical presence in the area.

The borough already has felt the benefits of collecting a sales tax from remote retailers, Borough Attorney Glenn Brown explained at the Oct. 21 Assembly meeting. Brown is part of an Alaska Municipal League working group examining online sales tax collection for the borough.

Last year, the borough collected $2,000 in sales taxes from online retailers, all of which have had a physical presence in the borough, Brown said in a phone interview Tuesday.

As of Oct. 15, online retailers have remitted $91,986 to the borough government this year, he said.

That amount was remitted voluntarily by just five online retailers. With participation from all online retailers, Brown estimates the borough could pull in between $400,000 and $1.2 million annually.

Shooting range ordinances

The Assembly also will hold a public hearing on a proposed ordinance to amend the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Code to "define and allow shooting ranges in the borough," according to the agenda. The proposed ordinance noted that the current codes are "silent on the definition of, and permitting requirements for shooting facilities."

The proposed ordinance followed a rezone request that the Assembly first considered and postponed on Aug. 18 over concerns about the absence of shooting range definitions and permitting requirements in the zoning codes.

 The proposed rezone would allow for the construction of a gun manufacturing facility and firing range on three parcels of land near Ward Cove.

The Assembly will hold a public hearing for the proposed zoning ordinance at Monday's meeting. It will consider the rezone request for the gun manufacturing facility and firing range in the unfinished business portion of the meeting.

Gravina Island rezone

A public hearing is scheduled regarding a proposed rezone of two lots on southeast Gravina Island.

The rezone request by Tab and Sarah McNabb has generated substantial discussion at the Planning Commission and Assembly levels since February.

The McNabbs are requesting a rezone from Rural Residential/Cottage Industrial to General Commercial with special limitations in order to operate their tour business on the waterfront property that faces the west channel of Tongass Narrows, south of Clam Cove.

The most recent action on the request came in June, when the Planning Commission postponed further consideration until the Assembly adopts a Clam Cove Neighborhood Plan.

The borough Planning Department is developing the Clam Cove Neighborhood Plan — which will incorporate components of a Planned Unit Development rezone that planning staff had drafted for that area.

Planning staff anticipate having a Clam Cove Neighborhood Plan available for review by Clam Cove residents and property owners at some point this month, according to agenda materials. The tentative schedule calls for Planning Commission review of the neighborhood plan in December/January, followed by Assembly review and potential adoption in January/February.

For Monday's Assembly meeting, borough staff is recommending that the Assembly not adopt the proposed rezone at this time.

“Staff recommends that the Assembly either deny the rezone request at this time, or to again postpone the action allowing more time for the adoption of the Clam Cove Neighborhood Plan,” the agenda materials state.

Humpback designation

Absent objection from the Assembly, borough staff will write a letter, to be signed by Mayor Dial, echoing concerns the Petersburg mayor expressed about the economic effects of a proposed National Marine Fisheries Service critical habitat designation for humpback whale protection.

Most of Southeast Alaska — including Petersburg and Ketchikan — would be included in the proposed critical habitat designation, which seeks to limit practices that harm the whales, including some fishing practices and devices, as part of the Endangered Species Act.

Petersburg Mayor Mark Jensen requested a public hearing in Petersburg regarding the designation in a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The proposal report identifies crab pots and gillnets as potentially harmful to the whale population, which Jensen said are "heavily relied upon" for salmon fishing and crab trapping.

Assembly appointments

Also Monday, Mayor Rodney Dial will seek Assembly confirmation of AJ Pierce as vice mayor and confirm the mayor's selections for Assembly committee appointments, according to the meeting agenda released Thursday afternoon.

The Assembly meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Assembly chambers at 1900 First Ave.

Daily News Staff Writer Scott Bowlen contributed to this story.