Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Neighbors: Heliports not welcome at 26 Mile


June 16, 2011

Some residents at 26 Mile Haines Highway want their area rezoned like the Mud Bay planning and zoning district, which now specifically prohibits heliports.

Helicopter skiing tour provider Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures (SEABA) has shown repeated interest in establishing a heliport at .6 Mile Chilkat Lake Road.

As of this week, resident Jessica Plachta said she has collected more than 100 signatures in an effort to rezone the neighborhood as rural residential to forbid heliports. She said the number exceeds the borough code requirement of "51 percent of the land owners in the petition area."

Members of the Haines Borough Planning Commission discussed the potential rezoning at last week’s meeting.

"It’s a neighborhood initiative, so they’re kind of grappling with form and format on what the zone should look like in geographical size and allowable uses," said planning commissioner Robert Venables.

Plachta asked for "just a little bit more time" to explain the rezoning process to 26 Mile residents before the planning commission takes action.

"Nobody’s trying to stop people from running their businesses from their homes," she said. "Home-based businesses are one of the great things that makes it possible for many of us to live so far from town."

Plachta said she expects final documents to be ready for the planning commission’s next regular meeting on Thursday, July 14.

Currently, 26 Mile is part of the highway’s general use planning and zoning district. Heliports were a use by right in the general use zone until earlier this year, when the Haines Borough Assembly adopted an ordinance requiring a conditional use permit for additional heliports.

The Haines Airport, the Stewart landing strip at 18 Mile Haines Highway and a heliport at 33 Mile Haines Highway are exempt under a revised heli-skiing ordinance adopted in March.

A conditional use permit for a heliport at SEABA’s .6 Mile Chilkat Lake Road property was on a planning commission agenda in April, but the request was withdrawn. Scott Sundberg of SEABA attended the June 9 planning commission meeting but did not comment.

Mud Bay already has the rural residential designation, and the assembly last month approved an ordinance that prohibited heliports there.

According to borough code, a rural residential zone provides "areas for low-density, single-residential, and agricultural uses along with limited, compatible, low-impact commercial uses."

Last week’s planning commission meeting also referred to a rural mixed use zone, which Venables said "might be more appropriate" at 26 Mile "if they’re going to reach farther than just the immediate residential area."

Plachta said her intent is to proceed with rural residential, not rural mixed use, rezoning to provide "more protection" from changes "not compatible with a rural, residential lifestyle."