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City set to release feedback on comprehensive plan update

Imagine Kenai: Survey says ...

Posted: June 7, 2012 - 8:41am
M. Scott Moon
The northern lights shimmer in the sky above the Saint Nicholas Memorial Chapel in Kenai last winter. Respondents to a new survey gave the town’s location and recreational opportunities highest marks on a question about what people liked most about living in the city.

More than 150 community members and high school students took a survey designed to inform Kenai's planning and zoning commision as it continues to rewrite the city's comprehensive plan.

The survey was published March 1 and closed May 7. Results will be posted on the city's web site in the next few weeks.

"So the council and the public and the commissions will have that information when they go to review and ask for things or have to make decisions on where money should be used or staff time should be used or what the city as a whole should be looking at," said Marilyn Kebschull, Kenai city planner. "They may make a decision otherwise but at least they'll have those guidelines."

The survey was included in a contract for consulting that the city has with Glenn Gray and Associates out of Juneau for help during the city's ongoing update of its comprehensive plan.

"We budgeted and we had considered doing a scientific survey but we feel that the results of this survey are valid enough that, at this time, it's not worth it to spend citizen's money to go out and do a scientific survey which would probably cost at least another $5,000 or more."

Two versions were given out, one for Kenai Central High School senior classes and one provided to the public via the city's website or paper copies placed in the library and mailed to residents, Kebschull said.

Seventy-nine people took the public survey and most of them, about 30 percent, said they'd lived in the city between five and 20 years, another 30 percent said they'd lived in town for more than 30 years.

Kebschull said she was not surprised by the results.

"It's fairly consistent with what we hear when we have meetings with the public and what administration hears and you'll always have your groups that support one part of government and not another," Kebschull said.

Several of the survey questions were followed with questions about an increase in city expenditures or raising taxes to support services like paved roads, housing for seniors, snow plowing, more recreation facilities. Survey participants were overwhelmingly against providing extra money for those services.

Kebschull said this was also consistent with what the city has seen in the past.

"People like the free stuff, they like the benefits. But when they have to pay out of pocket, then they'll reconsider," she said.

One fee respondants supported was the addition of a $20 annual fee for non-residents to use the Kenai Community Library.

While both surveys included write-in sections where respondants could expand on their answers to each question, the 89 high school students who answered joked around more in their responses.

A survey questions asking how students would rate the quality of life in Kenai had answers like "i love cats" and "like slow looming death that ironicly only ends in a painful death."

However, not all of the students took the test lightly and Kebschull said many of the student answers matched what the adults addressed as concerns.

"The snow berms on the side of the streets can be super dangerous," one respondant wrote in to a question for the public works department. "Drivers can't see around it."

Students were also more willing to support increases in property taxes for an indoor turf facility and more pedestrian pathways, and 40.5 percent of them said they strongly supported the city's administration bringing in more green technology.

While several complaints were voiced in the both surveys, most respondants rated the quality of life in Kenai ranging from fair to good.

Ultimately the results will be included in the city's comprehensive plan, although Kebschull said changes to the current plan don't have a completion date as of yet.

Kebschull said anyone with questions related to the survey or the city's comprehensive plan can attend the planning and zoning commission meetings on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month or email her at mkebschull@ci.kenai.ak.us.

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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