Assembly favors 'soft opening' for tour code
February 28, 2019
The Haines Borough Assembly unanimously approved a temporary change to tourism code for 2019 that will reverse by March 1, 2020 if the borough does not further develop the code.
“This resolution lets us look at unintended consequences and allows us to have a soft opening,” borough clerk Alekka Fullerton said in a commerce committee meeting last week. “Then we’re going to come back and address those things that have a result that we didn’t intend.”
The changes aimed at updating Title Five before tour permitting issuance begins March 1 are: requiring operators to submit a safety and operating plan, mandating operators to report their numbers at the end of the season and raising the annual permit fee from $25 to $75 for a company with fewer than 5,000 annual clients and $250 for a tour with more than 5,000. New code will also change parking fees based on vehicle size, charging $10 for 14-passenger vans or less and $25 for larger buses.
Last week, the commerce committee recommended striking a requirement that would allow the borough unscheduled site visitations, an addition imposed to match conditions to one tour operator’s permit approval.
“I don’t think is necessary, I think it’s implied that (the borough) can go any time,” committee member Tom Morphet said last week. “When we’ll go out is when there’s a complaint that seems credible.”
The Haines Borough administration and local tour operators have gone back and forth with code changes since January, when borough manager Debra Schnabel proposed revisions that would hike base permit fees from $25 to $250 per year to contribute to the community’s general fund.
More than 10 operators have made public complaints about the code changes. Despite Fullerton’s substitute ordinance aimed at reducing tension by trimming the proposed changes down to five, operators were still displeased. Andy Hedden of Haines Rafting Company, said that Title Five code “lacks clear intent, research and understanding of some of the element of the commerce that its governing.”
Assembly member Heather Lende agreed that the code needs work.
“We all agree after many meetings (the code) is not ready in its final form yet,” Lende said. “I personally think it’s flawed on a lot of levels.”
Assembly member Brenda Josephson made the motion to sunset the tourism code changes to motivate assembly members and staff to revise code.
“I think if we haven’t addressed this by March 2020, you need to replace us,” Schnabel said.