Residents examined and mulled on Friday the City of Kenai’s comprehensive plan for how the area might look, function and feel 20 years from now.
However, several residents who attended the meeting had specific concerns, spoke against areas of the city’s land use plan and advocated for more affordable housing.
“We’ve got a working class town here,” said Sandy Lashbrook, Highland Pride Mobile Home Park owner. “I know a lot of people are making $9, $10, $12 an hour.”
She said the city needed more affordable housing.
But city planner Marilyn Kebschull said in an interview after the meeting that the city can not directly correct those issues. That change must come from the state, she said.
More than 20 Kenai residents, including Mayor Pat Porter, City Manager Rick Koch, and Council Members Bob Molloy and Ryan Marquis, attended the open house at the Kenai Senior Center on Friday. City planners fielded questions from many of the residents.
Another resident took issue that lots next to his property were labeled as mixed use in the comprehensive plan’s land use plan. He said the category will open a window for industries to build close to his home on Princess Street.
“You’ve gone from one extreme to the other with conservation to heavy industrial in one foul swoop,” Stanley Kaneshiro said. “I don’t understand how you can put heavy industrial right across from my property.”
Kebschull said mixed use is not “strictly commercial.” It allows residential and “low impact commercial use,” she said. And, if a commercial business requested permission to build in a mixed use area, the council would still have to approve it.
She also said the land use plan is only a “guide line” — it is not definitive.
“It’s just a vision that this may be what it’s going to look like,” she said. “It doesn’t change anybody’s property; it doesn’t rezone anything.”
The compressive plan is a map for the city’s future, said Eileen Bechtol, a planning consultant for the city.
“It’s what the city will hopefully use over the next 20 years to guide them on where they put their money, their effort, their resources,” she said.
The plan is broken down into eight goals, which are “broad statements” about what the city hopes to accomplish, Bechtol said.
“The first goal is quality of life: education, senior citizens, things that make Kenai special,” she said.
For each goal the planning commission has designated objectives, then strategies to accomplish the objectives.
“For example, one of the objectives it to obtain first people’s heritage in Kenai,” she said.
She said their commission met with a native group who wanted native names for Kenai’s streets.
Goal two addresses the city’s economic development. This pertains to job opportunities for the city’s residents and other quality of life issues related to the city’s finances.
“Now there’s only so much the city can do obviously to promote that,” she said, “but one of the objectives is to influence business-friendly regulations, taxation.”
Goal three covers land use.
“Now this is hitting on what the planning commission was looking at 20 years of doing,” she said. “Some of that is (renaming) zoning definitions. Some of them are out dated.”
Goal four addresses public improvements.
“These are things that are city owned facilities,” she said. “How (it can) make them better.”
Goal five covers the city’s transportation system.
“Make sure they’re efficient and adequate and serve regional needs,” she said. “Make sure they can get tax dollars from federal.
Goal six pertains to parks and recreation.
This includes objectives such as adding green space to the city, working on trails systems and adding a bike path to Bridge Access road.
Goal seven covers natural hazards and disasters, and goal eight touches on environmental concerns.
Despite only about 20 residents attending the open house, Kebschull said she is not discouraged, and she expected criticism.
She said she is happy with the comprehensive plan.
“We have hundreds of ideas, and we have to take them and we have to put them together and determine what they really mean,” she said. “They can’t be a very specific idea; it has to be more of a long term goal or open vision.”
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.