The Haines Planning Commission at a meeting in November 2015. (Emily Files)

The Haines Planning Commission at a meeting in November 2015. (Emily Files)

Whether a helipad at 35 Mile of the Haines Highway will be allowed to operate could now be in the hands of the borough manager, not the planning commission. The topic came up at last week’s planning meeting.


Property Owner Michael Wilson applied for a conditional use permit for a helipad at 35 Mile. His application states that the helipad would allow Alaska Heliskiing to move their operation from 33 Mile to a more remote and safe location. The planning commission put off making a decision on the permit at two meetings because of questions about whether the neighboring property owners had been notified.

But Wilson and Alaska Heliskiing owner Sean Brownell recently realized they might not need a permit.

“We believe that we have a use-by-right helipad at 35 [Mile,]” Brownell said.

He believes they are in a similar situation to the heliport at 33 Mile. That heliport operates without a conditional use permit because it was in use before the Haines Borough changed code and put additional restrictions on heliports. Brownell said, in August of 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the helipad.

“And since 2009, we have documented about 25-35 days of landing helicopters on the property,” Brownell said.

If a heliport is in use without a two-year lapse before the 2011 code changes went into effect, the heliport operators don’t need to conform to the current regulations.

Planning Chair Rob Goldberg said he wasn’t sure how many landings constitute an operational heliport. He suggested the commission ask acting manager Julie Cozzi to make that decision. The rest of the commission agreed that it was time to send the matter of the 35 Mile heliport to the manager.

Also at last week’s meeting, the planning commission decided to form a committee to explore how mobile commercial units should be addressed in Haines Borough code. The question came up after a few commercial trailers started operating near the cruise ship dock during the summer.

“We really don’t have anything in code that addresses this and it’s something I think we need to address,” Goldberg said.

He said communities like Skagway, Juneau and Wrangell all address mobile commercial units in municipal code. Skagway prohibits mobile food and retail units in the historic district part of town.  Wrangell allows vending carts on municipal property with a permit.

Commissioner Heather Lende suggested a committee take a closer look at the issue.

“I think it’s exciting,” Lende said. “I think there’s potential for interesting business things here. I think also since it’s not pressing and controversial, I think it would be nice to have a committee, and really sit down and figure it out.”

The commission asked Mayor Jan Hill to form a committee that would explore the issue.