After a proposed commercial skiing tour ordinance hit a snag at the Oct. 26 Haines Borough Assembly meeting, the borough’s planning commission is set to make a recommendation on a potential rezoning for those tours.

The commission was scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 4 for a public hearing to discuss rezoning a portion of the borough’s general use zone as a rural recreation use district for commercial skiing and snowboarding.

The effective date of the commercial skiing tour ordinance was to be tied to the zoning changes, but the ordinance was delayed Oct. 26.

The regulatory changes recommended by borough attorney Brooks Chandler remove mention of helicopters and instead shift the question of regulating the activity to the borough’s zoning authority.

Planning commissioner Rob Goldberg last week said the ordinance should be more focused on helicopter skiing.

“This whole thing that we have now is a compromise, and the reason we do have regulations on heli-skiing is because of the helicopters’ impact on people who live up in that area,” Goldberg said. “I think this new ordinance as proposed has a problem, because the focus is on skiing and not on helicopters. No one has ever complained about skiing; it’s the helicopters that are the problem.”

The ordinance had its first public hearing Oct. 26, but the assembly did not move it forward to a second public hearing. Instead, Mayor Jan Hill and borough manager Mark Earnest were directed to form a “balanced” work group to suggest revisions.

“I hope that the assembly will send this back to the drawing board and simplify it greatly,” said Deborah Vogt, a former assembly member.

Before the regular meeting, assembly members had gathered for a committee-of-the-whole meeting about the ordinance and rezoning.

Topics at the public hearing included noise, accountability, flight corridors, impacts on wildlife and whether voluntary compliance would ever be reliable.

Joyce Town spoke on behalf of the Haines Chamber of Commerce board of directors, asking the assembly to consider how regulations would impact the heli-ski industry.

According to a revision recommended by Earnest and borough attorney Chandler, the number of commercial ski tour permits could increase to four. Heli-ski tour permits currently are limited to two companies.

The season would run from Feb. 1 to May 3, and permittees “may request an additional allocation of up to 120 skier days in any one calendar year.”

Mayor Hill said the heli-skiing work group and planning commission would have to “work real hard” to have new policies in place for the upcoming season.

Sean Brownell of Alaska Heliskiing asked for “a little bit more freedom” so his business can spread out.

Attorney Chandler said an ordinance targeted specifically to helicopters would have “real impediments” and might be in conflict with Federal Aviation Administration rules.

“The overall concept is that you are regulating not helicopters, but you’re regulating the activity of commercial skiing,” he said.

Chandler said borough flight path restrictions would be difficult to enforce unless they included more specific measures for “proving where somebody was on a specific day.”