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Bethel Planning Commission Once Again Rejects Hackneys' Appeal To Keep Bed And Breakfast

The Hackneys' short term rental addition in Blueberry Subdivision that is at the center of a dispute between the Hackneys and the City of Bethel. Photo taken May 5, 2021.
Greg Kim

The saga between the City of Bethel and a family’s bed and breakfast operation continues. On Sept. 2, the city’s planning commission once again denied the family’s appeal to operate their bed and breakfast. The family plans to appeal a fourth time.

In 2019, Dan and Dawn Hackney built a two-story addition to their home in Blueberry Subdivision. They started renting out rooms as a bed and breakfast. 

But the city ordered them to shut down due to neighbor complaints, saying that short-term rentals in residential areas were illegal. On Aug. 24, 2021, the city changed its laws to allow bed and breakfasts to operate in residential zones if they have three bedrooms or fewer. The Hackneys’ bed and breakfast has four bedrooms. 

In 2019, the city ordered the Hackneys to either demolish their bed and breakfast or come into compliance with city codes. The Hackneys appealed the city’s order three times, which sent it up to Alaska Superior Court. The court sent the case back to the city. On Sept. 2, the Bethel Planning Commission denied the Hackneys’ appeal again.

The dispute revolves around whether the Hackneys obtained permission from the city to build their bed and breakfast. The Hackneys say that the city gave verbal permission multiple times. Planning Commission member Alex Wasierski said on Sept. 2 that he believed the Hackneys received verbal permission from the city, but he said that wasn’t enough.

“It clearly states in the [Bethel Municipal Code] that it should be in writing,” Wasierski said. “I don't think it's reasonable that they went forward without ever having anything in writing from the city.”

The Planning Commission voted 4-2 in favor of denying the Hackneys’ appeal. The Hackneys now have three options.

The first is to modify their building to come into compliance with the city’s code, which limits bed and breakfasts to three rooms. Dawn Hackney told KYUK that she has asked the city whether they can turn the fourth bedroom into a gym or lease it to long-term renters. She said that the city has not given her an answer. Planning Director Ted Meyer did not answer KYUK’s email asking the same question.

The second option would be for the Hackneys to submit a conditional use permit application. The permit would allow the planning commission to make an exception for a particular property that violates the city’s codes.

But the route that the Hackneys say that they are planning to take is to appeal the city’s decision for the fourth time.

Greg Kim was a news reporter for KYUK from 2019-2022.
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