The Haines Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Nov. 30, will hold a third public hearing for an ordinance that aims to limit repeat applications for commercial tour permits.

“What we’re trying to get away from is having an application come before the assembly every assembly meeting, in theory, and just keep submitting and changing a few things and having it over and over and over again,” borough manager Mark Earnest said Nov. 9.

The ordinance would “enlarge the waiting period for persons who have had a commercial tour permit suspended … from one year to two years” and “apply the two-year waiting period to persons whose application for a commercial tour permit has been denied.”

Andy Hedden of Chilkat Guides wrote a letter to the assembly and referenced the section of the ordinance that states, “No person that has had a permit issued under this title … whose application for a permit has been denied within the previous two years may submit an application for a new permit.”

“Thus, if an established tour operator wants to offer a new tour but the assembly denies the application, the ordinance prevents the operator from applying for any new tour permit – regardless of its individual merit – for two years,” Hedden wrote. “The option to revise and resubmit the application is not addressed in the ordinance.”

Member Joanne Waterman said the assembly likely would let an applicant make some adjustments before a permit is denied.

“There was going to be an option that we would not deny it, but we would send it back for them to work on and they could kind of submit the same thing,” Waterman said. “I guess I’m concerned that that’s not being conveyed, especially with Andy’s letter that has that concern.”

Earnest told Waterman that the assembly “always has that option” to request that an applicant make revisions, “and to actually codify that option may be a little confusing.”

Member Steve Vick said he shared Hedden’s concern about the ordinance’s wording.

Vick made up the scenario of a tour operator who “wanted to put 20 buses in at Chilkoot Lake, and they got denied. They came back and said, ‘Oh, you know what, I just want to put three in the bald eagle preserve.’ Now that they’ve been denied, can they not come back with a new idea?”

“That’s my interpretation of this, yes,” Earnest said.

The second public hearing for the ordinance Nov. 9 was nearly a month after the assembly declined to issue a commercial tour permit to Dave Button of Eco Orca. Button said he has gone six years without a tour permit in Haines. A public hearing is required for new tour activities in the Haines Borough.

The proposed ordinance would establish a $125 fee for tour permit applications that require a public hearing. Currently, those applications have a $25 fee.

In his permit application, Button said he “plans to operate two, three-passenger, four-wheel Rhoades (human powered) cars on a designed route during the tour season” with “stops at the Bald Eagle Foundation and Haines Museum.”

Button repeatedly has been denied tour permits, and member Scott Rossman said the ordinance might be a case of “one apple spoiling the whole bunch.”

“We know what this is all about,” Rossman said. “We know who we’re talking about here, and it is an individual. We’re trying to hammer individuals here, not businesses, but I’m going to vote against it, for what that’s worth.”

Waterman repeated that the assembly would give applicants “leeway.”

“That’s where it comes to us as an assembly, hearing it for the first time, if we can go to the person and say, ‘Look, 20 buses is too many. We’re going to set this aside, ask you to go work on it some more and bring it back to us,’” she said.

The ordinance also states, “No permit may be issued to a person who has had a permit revoked within a period of five years prior to the date of making the application.”

Rossman said he would like the ordinance to include an option for an appeal to the assembly. “It just seems to me five years is a long time to throttle on somebody,” he said.