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Boro to mull Danger Island

Daily News Staff Writer

A proposed rezone of an island in Tongass Narrows for tourism activities will be the subject of a public hearing during the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly’s regular meeting on Monday.

Danger Island is located about 2,300 feet off the shoreline south of Refuge Cove Beach.

Owned by the Seller Family Limited Partnership and Seley Properties, the approximately 81,600-square-foot island is currently zoned Future Development, according to the agenda materials. The proposed rezone would be to a general commercial zone, with special limitations.

“The current zoning of the property could allow certain aspects of what the applicant desires to do, but (general commercial zoning) is a better fit,” wrote borough Planning Department staff in their analysis. “Unfortunately (general commercial) allows a broad range of uses and a new zoning category such as waterfront commercial or tourism commercial would be better suited to the property. Since these zoning districts do not yet exist in the Borough’s zoning code, CG is the most appropriate for this situation.”

The Seley family, which has owned the property for than 25 years, has built a cabin, trails and other amenities on the island, which has been used as a second home, according to the Seleys’ rezone application.

Now, with the visitor industry expanding and evidence of demand for excursions that focus on Alaska lifestyles, “we feel that a walking tour of the island, picnic lunch and display of the history of Ketchikan through photographs, artifacts and old memorabilia will be popular and provide an alternative to more strenuous excursions for many,” the application states.

Providing this type of tour opportunity on Danger Island would require a floating dock with a ramp to the shore, breakwater, and restroom facilities that use a holding tank, like those in use at Totem Bight State Historical Park, according to the rezone application. The property owners are submitting an application for a tideland lease through the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to allow installation of a storm boom and float.

Staging for the tour activity to Danger Island would occur at the applicant's waterfront property at Mud Bay, which currently have a heavy industrial use, according to the rezone application.

“Most customers visiting Danger Island will arrive and/or depart from Mud Bay,” states the application.

The applicant writes that “we do not feel that the proposed activity will have an adverse impact on the surrounding area,” states the application.

Citing a range of visitor services that already exist in the Ketchikan area, including sport fishing, kayaking, Zodiac rental and birdwatching, the applicants write that “our development and waterfront amenities will have a positive impact for many.”

The rezone request follows at least two other visitor-industry related rezone requests from other entities, the processes for which have resulted in considerable public comment for and against the proposals.

According to the borough staff summary of the Danger Island request, the Danger Island rezone applicants worked with borough staff in response to the concerns presented in the other rezone processes to develop a set of special limitations for the  general commercial zoning requested for their property.

The proposed special limitations would set the principal uses as commercial recreation that would include:

• Walking trails, including interpretive.

• Food and beverage service.

• Retail sales.

• Playgrounds.

• Presentation and display areas.

• Auditoriums

• Meeting and assembly spaces.

Other special limitations would include “one and two family dwellings and accessories thereto,” and lodges, according to the proposed substitute Ordinance 1897.

The proposed rezone was considered on Oct. 8 by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Planning Commission, which voted to recommend that the Assembly approve the request.

In addition to Monday’s public hearing, the Assembly could introduce Ordinance 1897 and schedule a second public hearing on the proposal for the Assembly meeting of Nov. 25.

Monday’s Assembly meeting is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. in the Assembly chambers at 1900 First Ave. There is time for general public comment at the start of the meeting.