A resolution failed by a 3-2 vote from the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday that would have established a Special Assessment District for Lingonberry Lane. The issue has been at the heart of a cohesive neighborhood of close friends since June. That was when a petition was filed to establish the SAD. A Special Assessment District is used to improve a road that, for some reason, needs improvement, Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche said.
"Typically, it's just to bring a city road at gravel standards to paving," Micciche said. "In the Lingonberry case, it's turning a trail into some sort of standard acceptable to the city for maintenance and the neighbors for quality, flexibility."
Since the resolution did not pass, the residents are back at the drawing board.
"It's up to whatever the locals agree to do to the road as a group," Micciche said. "Whatever they do, they have to bring the development plans to the city. Because it is technically a city road."
Lingonberry Lane is known as one of the nicest, most secluded neighborhoods in Soldotna. If the SAD was passed, the process would continue to establish the district. If the process was completed, the city would have to foot the bill, and the homeowners would have to pay 50 percent of the bill back to the city in a given time period. However, one homeowner, Marge Mullen, who is one of Soldotna's homesteaders, said she would not be able to meet her financial obligations under the SAD.
"I am very much opposed to what's being offered tonight, because it will be a financial burden that a 91-year-old person could not take on," Mullen said.
The other side argued the options should be weighed to be able to fix the road. In the spring, residents said pools of water are hazardous.
"I do believe we do need a little bit better road than the existing homestead road," said Brian Shackelton, who was the primary project sponsor of the SAD. "I believe that some time in the near future it's going to be necessary for the road to be brought up to code."
Although the two sides could not agree on a solution prior to airing their concerns at the council meeting, residents agree something should be done to fix the road, as long as the cost would not cause hardship.
"I want to thank you for all your patience," Jean Brockel said to the council. "We should have been, us, our neighbors, all of us talking this over and we should have come to a conclusion."
During the public testimony, the respect for each other was very clear. Odin Oftedal and his wife Vidya testified in favor of the SAD, but did so with heavy hearts.
"The reason why we are in the neighborhood is because of Margie," Odin said. "But we stand on Brian with this. For us, the simple thing is the point is we need to get the road up to a certain standard so it's drivable, that is safe and secure in all seasons.
"In the spring time, it's more like a lake than a road."
Odin cited a layer of clay that rests a foot down blocking water from getting through easily.
Bill Radtke and his wife Sharon testified against the SAD. Bill said the road does need to be fixed, but not necessarily to city standards.
"Yes the road needs to be done," he said. "I think we can get it done an awful lot cheaper."
Bill cited an estimate Peggy Mullen received that would fix the puddles in the road for $5,000.
"I would think that's way low," Radtke said. "But I don't think $50,000 would be completely out of line."
Despite their differences, Micciche is confident a solution can be reached.
"This is a group of pretty dang good friends for a very long time," Micciche said. "I have to say I'm disappointed that we're still here. I'm disappointed that most of you have been friends for this many years, and we all couldn't come to some kind of an agreement."
Council member Kyle Fisher said if the road is upgraded it should be to match city code. However, he too was concerned about the cost.
"Bringing this road up to pavement standards - which is what I think we should do if we do it, costs a lot of money for a very small group of people." Fisher said. "I'm not convinced it's financially worth it, just looking at the dollars."
Fisher proposed that the council postpone their decision until the city could complete a report of the project to address estimated costs to each homeowner, but the motion failed.
Nels Anderson said now is the time to deal with the issue
"I think we need to deal with this," Anderson told Fisher. "I think you're quite right in wanting to get this right but we've heard adequate comment to get it right."
Council members Regina Daniels and Kyle Fisher voted yes for the process to continue. Council member Brenda Hartman was not present.
* In other business, the city received a grant from Fred Meyer for $150,000 to be distributed as $50,000 over three years for additions to Soldotna Creek Park. Also, the city will sign a letter of intent to contract with Siemens Industry, Inc. for an investment grade energy audit of city facilities.
The next city council meeting will be Oct. 26.