February 16, 2012 | Vol. 42 No. 7

Assembly agrees to hear SEABA permit appeal

The Haines Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Feb. 28, will rehear a planning commission decision that denied a company’s request for a permit to use a 26 Mile heliport for commercial helicopter skiing.

Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures (SEABA) is seeking a conditional use permit for a heliport at .6 Mile Chilkat Lake Road, across the steel bridge.

“We’ve displayed clear intent for years,” Nick Trimble of SEABA said this week. “This really is an attempt to show the community and the borough that we’re willing to work out and operate under conditions, even though we do believe we have developer rights.”

The Haines Borough Planning Commission in January denied the permit in a 3-3 vote, and SEABA appealed this month. According to the agenda bill, the borough attorney recommended the assembly rehear the commission’s decision, “particularly in light of” the tie vote.

Resident Jim Studley spoke at Tuesday’s assembly meeting in support of SEABA.

“I believe it’s the right of the individual corporation or company or person involved that, when he doesn’t receive an affirmative vote one way or another on their appeal, that the assembly has an obligation to hear this,” Studley said. “…We need an answer, and a tie is not an answer in my book.”

Assembly members voted unanimously to rehear the decision, and then Mayor Stephanie Scott gave them instructions.

“When determining an appeal, the assembly is acting as jury or judge,” Scott said. “The assembly is not to consider information other than what was either presented to the planning commission or written or oral testimony submitted before or during the assembly’s public hearing.”

Advanced, written comments are due by noon on Friday, Feb. 24. Residents also can speak at the public hearing.

“Unlike other matters of local interest, the assembly is not to take public input informally, either through phone calls or e-mails,” Scott said. “Those interested in the issue must request to either submit written comments through the borough clerk or to appear at the public hearing. This is a very formal situation, and we will be guided carefully through the experience.”

According to borough code, “The burden of proof shall be on the party challenging the decision of the commission.”