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

Resident files court appeal of 26 Mile heliport decision


A resident of a neighboring subdivision filed an appeal in Juneau Superior Court last week challenging the Haines Borough’s decision to issue a permit for development of a heliport near 26 Mile Haines Highway.

Jessica Plachta claimed the assembly erred when it voted in March to overturn the Planning Commission’s decision to deny the conditional use permit for the heliport. The commission voted in February to deny the application by Big Salmon Ventures, sister company of heli-ski operator Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures.

“What we don’t want to do is create divisions in the community, cost the borough money or interfere with legitimate business developments,” Plachta wrote in an email to the CVN. “What we do want to do is prevent the implementation of the Borough Assembly’s mistake.”

“The Planning Commission and borough law have it right -- heliports and homes should be kept apart,” Plachta said.

In 2012, SEABA also applied for a permit to build a heliport, about 400 feet from the current proposed spot. The request was rejected by the planning commission and the borough assembly.

Borough attorney Brooks Chandler said the conditional use permit is still valid despite the appeal, and manager David Sosa confirmed borough staff will continue to pursue a noise study to evaluate impacts of the proposed heliport.

The permit is currently valid until March 31, 2015.

Plachta contends that the  borough assembly did not find a proposed heliport at .6 Mile Chilkat Lake Road met the eight criteria outlined in code for issuing a conditional use permit.

Of the eight criteria, Plachta said the assembly wrongly decided the proposed heliport met seven of them, which are:

• The use is so located on the site as to avoid undue noise and other nuisances and dangers

• The development of the use is such that the value of the adjoining property will not be significantly impaired

• The specific development scheme of the use is consistent and in harmony with the comprehensive plan and surrounding land uses

• The granting of the conditional use will not be harmful to the public safety, health or welfare

• The use will not significantly cause erosion, ground or surface water contamination or significant adverse alteration of fish habitat on any parcel adjacent to state-identified anadromous streams

• The use will comply with all required conditions and specifications if located where proposed and developed, and operated according to the plan as submitted and approved

• Comments received from property owners impacted by the proposed development have been considered and given their due weight

Chandler said the borough has 40 days from Plachta’s filing date to compile a complete record of the proceedings regarding the heliport and send the files to the court in Juneau. Plachta will then file an initial statement, which the borough responds to.

Chandler estimated the borough response should occur within about 100 days.

Sosa issued a statement on behalf of the borough Monday, stating “the borough will provide its side of the story to the court by deadlines set by the court.”

“We encourage our residents and visitors to participate in dialogue about borough decisions. This appeal is a continuation of the dialogue we are already engaged in,” Sosa said. 


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