Kenai talks land appraisals, vehicles at council meeting

Buying property at a low price will be a little easier for the city of Kenai this fall after Kenai’s city council agreed to change the appraisal requirements Wednesday.


The council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance brought forward by city administration that enables the body to choose not to pursue an appraisal for certain land purchases, and took action on a grabbag of other city policies and practices.

City Manager Rick Koch explained that the appraisal change would allow the city to get land that it knows is a good deal without paying thousands of dollars to have an independent party check the value.

Right now, the city is looking to buy 60 acres from the borough for just $2. That land would be part of a well protection area for the city, and the borough voted to give the city a discount. But all purchases require an appraisal to make sure it’s a fair price, and the valuation process often costs about $10,000. Koch said he feels uncomfortable spending public money to confirm the low price.

The change will allow the city manager to recommend that the council opt out of an appraisal when its such a “smoking deal,” Koch said. If administration made the recommendation, the council would be responsible for voting to forgo the appraisal, or deciding that they still wanted one done.

Now passed, the change goes into effect Sept. 17.

The council also passed a slew of vehicle-related ordinances, and opted not to move forward with a new records retention policy.

The vehicle ordinance allows people to operate certain electric devices on pedestrian and bike paths. Motorized wheelchairs and Segways are the two main devices now allowed, which opens up access to city pathways to people with mobility disabilities.

According to a memo from Police Chief Gus Sandahl, Segways are a sort of electric personal motor vehicle, with two non-tandem wheels and a pole with hand-grips. They have an average maximum speed of about 12.5 miles per hour.

Sandahl’s memo also noted that Kenai police currently do not prevent people from operating motorized wheelchairs on city pathways, but that the use wasn’t protected by law in Kenai. Such vehicles are protected by an Alaska statute.

That legislation passed unanimously, and is also enacted Sept. 17.

The council also unanimously approved changing the definition of junked vehicles. The new definition looks at multiple criteria related to whether or not a vehicle can operate to determine what is junk.

That change was brought forward by Councilman Mike Boyle in June.

The council had discussed it at prior meetings but spent little time discussing it Wednesday. A June 9 memo said city administration recommended adoption.

A new records retention policy, also brought forward by Boyle in June, did not pass.

Councilman Ryan Marquis said the policy — which would have required the city to notify residents when it collected information on them — was too broad.

“I do not support this ordinance,” Marquis said. “I think it’s too broad.”

Administration also recommended against passing the ordinance.
Boyle said he would like to continue working on the ordinance.

“The intent is simply to open up communication,” he said.


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