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Term limits, land issues mulled

Posted: October 13, 2011 - 8:00am  |  Updated: October 13, 2011 - 8:20am

The Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly mulled an ordinance aimed at refining a previously enacted measure that redefined the length of time assembly members could serve before being term limited at its regular meeting Tuesday.

However, Ordinance 2011-35, which would stipulate that assembly members will not serve more than eight consecutive years without a break in service of more than 180 days, was postponed until the assembly's next meeting on Nov. 1.

"Without this ordinance, one could actually serve a good deal more than eight years under the language that's in the current code," assembly member Linda Murphy said.

Murphy and assembly member both Bill Smith offered amendments to the ordinance to sort out perceived language-based conflicts in its wording, but the assembly postponed voting on anything until the borough attorney could sort through the issue.

"These are more restrictions that we are adding onto the code that we adopted a few months ago," Smith said. "I think these are good additions to make."

Ordinance 2011-24 redefined borough assembly term limits to mirror the mayoral term limits. The ordinance was vetoed by borough mayor David Carey, but that action was overturned by the assembly in mid-August.

Several assembly members raised concerns about wording contained in Murphy's amendments that could allow an assembly member to serve 10 years or more on the assembly without being term limited.

The eight-year cap being considered as part of Ordinance 2011-35 would help compensate, Murphy contends, for truncated terms due to appointments or re-districting issues. Before, a citizens initiative mandated a term be considered as any or all of a three-year term, possibly leaving some assembly members term-limited after a service as short as four years.

Assembly passes stream protection enforcement

The borough assembly unanimously passed Ordinance 2011-34, which establishes an enforcement process for violations of Title 21, which contains the borough's anadromous streams habitat protection ordinance passed in late June, among other land issues.

"This for the most part spells out the enforcement of dealing with material and land use issues along anadromous streams and rivers," assembly member Hal Smalley said. "There was a lack of clarity in the language previously and that's why it has been amended to be replaced with this."

Smalley said a small committee was recently formed to go through the borough's planning department, the Donald E. Gilman River Center and the borough's legal department to establish how enforcement of the issue would be handled, Smalley said.

"Ninety percent of the issues along these streams and rivers aren't a problem," he said. "It's for the few that are. The primary function of this is to educate the public as to why the habitat protection needs to take place."

Smalley said borough officials would "love" to have voluntary compliance with the new rules. But the ordinance allows for several levels and steps of enforcement before fines or penalties are assessed.

The fines outlined in the ordinance are consistent with code throughout the state in "similar situations," Smalley added.

Assembly member steps up on coastal zone issue

Mako Haggerty, a borough assembly member representing the southern Peninsula, has stepped up to help sponsor an initiative to re-enact some sort of coastal zone management program for the state.

Haggerty, along with Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho and Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Jerome Selby, are hoping to gather 27,000 signatures before mid-January so if the state Legislature doesn't take up the issue, they can get it on the November 2012 ballot and let citizens decide.

State officials let the plan, which is an optional program allowing coastal states to help shape and define activities on federal waters and land, fizzle out on June 30 after attempting to revive it.

"I want to remind everybody that Alaska has 6,640 miles of coast line and it amounts to about 38 percent of the U.S. coastline," Haggerty said in his closing remarks during the assembly's meeting. "Out of 34 states and territories that have these coastal programs along them, Alaska is the only one that doesn't. For the amount of coastline that we have, it seems almost absurd that we don't have a coastal zone management program."

Haggerty said the emphasis isn't on stopping development.

"It's about creating a clear road map for any projects that go through and also allowing us to sit at the table to help make those decisions," he said. "All stakeholders at the table. I just think this program benefits everybody."

The officials are hoping the signatures would spur the governor and Legislature to address the issue.

"They call us the owner state, the resource state, but what I am afraid of is without this coastal zone management plan, we become a resource colony and we no longer get to participate in how our coastal zones are developed," Haggerty said. "I will have much more to say about that in the future."

Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@peninsulaclarion.com.

 

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