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Kenai's Comp. Plan nearing completion

Posted: March 3, 2013 - 9:40pm  |  Updated: March 3, 2013 - 9:50pm

Kenai’s Planning and Zoning Commission passed its most recent version of the city’s comprehensive plan to the Kenai City Council at a Tuesday work session. The commission, consultants, planners and city administration have spent two years refining the document.

City Manager Rick Koch said the process undertaken to update the city’s comprehensive plan has been the most inclusive and thorough he has been part of.

Other city officials agreed.

“In general, I think everything we have heard (from the public) has been included in the plan,” City Planner Marilyn Kebschull said.

During the 30-day comment period, the city received 33 recommendations from city residents. Although the city did not grant residents a public comment period extension as some requested, it did continue to collect their comments.

In total, the city gathered 152 comments from Sept. 19 to Dec. 20; held 24 public work sessions; and distributed two newsletters, various public notices and two community surveys, according to a city document handed out at the Tuesday work session.

But still, residents said they wanted more public input.

Gerald Brookman, who served three years on the planning and zoning committee, said he is disappointed the city did not attempt to actively engage more residents.

“Most folks have busy lives and don’t read the legal notices,” he said at the work session, reading from prepared material.

Larger cities like Anchorage use community councils to actively involve residents when revising documents such as comprehensive plans, and Kenai should have implemented a similar model, he said.

During planning and zoning work sessions that sometimes lasted almost three hours, residents mainly from Beaver Loop Road and the MAPS subdivision — Magic and Aliak Drive, Princess Street, and the Spur Highway — gave their input, but few other residential areas were represented at those meetings.

Jeff Twait, Planning and Zoning Commission chair, said he agreed that the plan’s revisions should have included more public and diverse input, but it was not for lack of effort.

“It seems like we could get more people to participate in these things but ... short of giving away door prizes, I don’t know how,” Twait said.

Vice chair of the commission Henry Knackstedt said they will use more social media in the future to reach a greater audience.

The two major changes to the plan include reclassifying the Beaver Loop Road corridor as rural residential on the future land use map and adding chapter three to address the city’s Alaska Native community, Twait said.

He said some of the greatest public resistance the commission encountered were with land use classifications, particularly in the areas of Beaver Loop Road and the MAPS subdivision.

But some of the public’s land-use concerns were a result of confusion, he said. While the land use classification does guide future zoning changes, it does not guide current construction, according to the plan.

But, Brookman said, the land use classification is a slippery slope. In particular, he is disappointed with the land labeled mixed use, he said.

“I understand that that is not itself a zoning change, but it would inevitably be used, at some future time, to justify a change in zoning in those areas,” he said.

The mixed use classification promotes “retail, service, office, public, institutional, recreational and residential uses,” according to the plan. These uses may include small businesses, like doctor’s or lawyer’s offices, but not large-scale commercial industries, Kebschull said.

The city council will vote to approve or rescind the plan at a March 20 council meeting at Kenai City Hall, 210 Fidalgo Ave.

If the council does not approve the plan, it will go back to the commission for further revisions. At the Tuesday work session, Mayor Pat Porter said she would like the council to move forward with the plan.

Dan Schwartz can be reached at

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sjlashbrook 03/04/13 - 07:45 pm
Who's Going To Profit From The 2030 Kenai Comprehensive Plan?

Once again, our fair City is ramming THEIR view down our throats and ignoring the opinions of the people who live and own property in the City of Kenai. People, hear me out. You have ONE LAST CHANCE to stand up for what you want your City to become. Do you want a City plan which bows to Big Business and “Industry” in an ill-fated attempt to lure them into areas in Kenai now designated “rural residential” regardless of the effects it will have on current homeowners, or a Plan that properly caters to its current tax payers and residential neighborhoods while encouraging economic growth in areas already properly zoned commercial? If you don’t want retail establishments springing up next door to YOUR home, SPEAK UP NOW! Because if you live along the Kenai Spur Highway, you are in for a BIG surprise. Speaking up DOES occasionally work: the people along Beaver Loop did not want that “corridor” zoned as “Mixed-Use,” and amazingly, the City DID change it back to Rural Residential! But the City has refused to listen to other very reasonable requests by MULTIPLE people: (1) requesting the Plan refrain from classifying most of the land adjacent to the Kenai Spur Hwy as “multi-use” when many people have homes along that road, and (2) classifying land beneath mobile home parks such that it will allow them to have it zoned as a mobile home park, so as to quietly continue to co-exist in current locations. Download a copy of the plan here: , read it over, and email your council members (email addresses here: ) or better yet, come to the March 5 and March 20 Council meetings, where City Administrators will attempt to push through this Comprehensive Plan, and VOICE YOUR OPINIONS!
Don’t believe everything you read: “In general, I think everything we have heard (from the public) has been included in the plan,” City Planner Marilyn Kebschull said. Ah, NO, Marilyn, "everything" the City has heard has NOT been "included in the plan." At least eight (8) residents requested in writing that Highland Pride Mobile Home Park (on Silver Salmon Drive off the Kenai Spur across from the Pillars Boat Launch) be appropriately classified land-use-wise as "Suburban Residential" or "Multi-Use," as two of the other three mobile home parks in the City have been classified... which would open the door to its being properly zoned as a mobile home park which status it has enjoyed while fulfilling the needs of young families, the disabled, the elderly, and others on a low to moderate income for over 40 years. Being properly zoned would eliminate the harmful label of being "non-conforming," and therefore subject to all kinds of rules and restrictions aimed at "getting rid of mobile homes in the City." But no, the City can't have that because Pat Porter and Rick Koch WANT to get rid of mobile homes, especially those in Highland, whose residents and owner (yours truly) have had the cojones to stand up and fight against unreasonable restrictions, which has consistently brought down the wrath of the City upon us. How dare we fight to maintain and repair our mobile homes!
Here’s another issue that is begging to be exposed: “City Manager Rick Koch said the process undertaken to update the city’s comprehensive plan has been the most inclusive and thorough he has been part of.” Maybe that’s because this is the ONLY comprehensive plan he has ever been part of! He wasn’t City Manager until 2006, and did not participate in Kenai’s 2003 Comprehensive Plan. However, that didn’t seem to have kept him from handily profiting from the apparently very flexible “guidelines” in the 2003 Plan by using his position as City Manager to “persuade” the Planning & Zoning Commission and the City Council in November of 2011 via Ordinance 2586 -2011 ( ) to REZONE his 5.98 acre tract of land (Parcel # 04901063, here: click “Identify” button then click on property to see ownership ) which he purchased in July of 2007, from “rural residential” to HEAVY INDUSTRIAL—even though on THREE SIDES the land bordered residences! This was AFTER he had suggested Ordinance 2311-2008, ( ) which conveniently zoned a recently purchased City-owned parcel of land (Parcel # 0490106) right next to Rick’s land and also conveniently located across the street from Mayor Porter’s residence (Parcel # 04916035), as “conservation” and reserved for parks. How nice was that? Rick testified before the Planning & Zoning Commission that he “would like to use the property for a shop and storage.” One resident who lived on the bluff above his property stated that she “was not opposed to his plan but was concerned if he sold the property in the future.” Rick made no comment. Perhaps that was because, OOPS, he ended up NOT using the land as he described he would, because SEVEN WEEKS after it was rezoned HEAVY INDUSTRIAL, he listed it FOR SALE in January 2012 for $100,000 with a local real estate agent, ( ) . Note that the Kenai Borough had formerly assessed the parcel’s land value at $9,200 (here: click “Agree,” then click Search by Parcel #, and type in 04901063, or search by name “Koch, Rick” to see the many properties our City Manager owns, so you can do your own research).
How did this happen? Well, Rick relied on the 2003 Comprehensive Plan, and the P&Z Commission justified their actions as follows: “The Comprehensive Plan Land Use Plan is provided as a guide to decision – making and is intended as a generalized vision. Although the plan discusses and analyzes land use, it does not regulate land use. That is the task of zoning. The Plan defines Industrial Land Use as, ‘The Industrial district identifies areas reserved for manufacturing, warehousing, trucking, marine - related industry and storage, and similar industrial activities. City utilities and safe, convenient vehicular access is critical. Buffers between industrial uses and adjacent non - industrial uses are desirable.’ Chapter 4 of the Comprehensive Plan discusses the opportunities and challenges for existing and future industrial land use in the City. The Plan notes the need to preserve existing best - located industrial -zoned tracts for future industrial uses. The proposed rezone would designate additional property in this area of concentrated industrial development…. Even though properties to the west, north, and east are RESIDENTIALLY ZONED, it appears the highest and best use of this property is to rezone the property to the [HEAVY] INDUSTRIAL zone.” Really? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Do you think this would have occurred had it been ANY other property owner making the request? Ah, no, I think NOT.
The funny thing is that this wasn’t Ricky Ray’s first rodeo with this property. In fact, 3 ½ years EARLIER, on May 20, 2008, Rick Koch asked the Council to approve rezoning the SAME property which at THAT time contained three zones: Conservation, Suburban Residential, and Rural Residential. Although it had a land use classification of “Conservation,” (must have been cheap, do you think?), Rick decided he preferred to get rid of that pesky classification, and asked to have it rezoned to just RURAL RESIDENTIAL, with Ordinance 2304-2008 ( ) . Rick received “unanimous approval” by the Mayor-Porter-controlled Planning & Zoning Commission with not so much as one comment about the fact that the land use was deemed “conservation” ( ) . It was all justified, though, by the 2003 Comprehensive plan and the interesting wording of the Ordinance, which in part, stated: “WHEREAS, the Zoning Code, identifies the Conservation zone as, ‘ intended to apply to areas which should be preserved primarily as open areas and as watersheds and wildlife reserves…’ and ‘WHEREAS, the 2003 City of Kenai Comprehensive Plan identifies the parcel as Conservation and the Plan defines the district as, ‘The Conservation district applies to public lands whose primary use is open space, recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, drainage ways, floodplain, and wetlands. Some public improvements may be appropriate within appropriate design guidelines.’ The Plan defines Rural Residential as, ‘The Rural Residential district includes areas that, due to location or site conditions, are best suited for large-lot single-family residential development. Homes in this district typically rely on individual on-site water supply and wastewater disposal systems’; and, WHEREAS, the request is to rezone the parcel to Rural Residential APPEARS TO MEET THE INTENT OF THE ZONING ORDINANCE AND THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN…’ and (this is my favorite part) WHEREAS, it is in the BEST INTEREST of the City [Manager] of Kenai to rezone the area to Rural Residential.…NOW THEREFORE BE IT ORDAINED…’ blah blah blah. Wow, I had to read that twice because something just didn’t add up, until I inserted the word [MANAGER]! BUT, although Council members Mike Boyle and Bob Molloy judiciously voted ‘NO,’ COUNCIL still PASSED THIS ORDINANCE, at the May 20, 2008 City Council meeting, with YES votes from Porter, Eldridge, Smalley and Ross, so City Manager Rick Koch got what he wanted. Except, he changed his mind 3 ½ years later and now it’s zoned HEAVY INDUSTRIAL. Only someone holding the purse-strings to the entire City could possibly ever get CONSERVATION LAND CHANGED TO HEAVY INDUSTRIAL !!!
But here is the point: the current Comprehensive Plan does not reflect the views of even the few people who showed up and made comments. It’s the City Manager’s, the Mayor’s and the City Planner’s Plan… not YOUR plan. If enough of you care, you can still do something about it. Trust me, it WILL matter to you someday, maybe sooner than later…. And when you go to the polls this fall, consider voting in some new blood as Mayor, for a start. Maybe then we can work on getting someone less concerned about his own wallet and more concerned about listening to the views of the residents and property owners of Kenai, as City Manager.
Points 03/05/13 - 07:07 am
Kenai Comprehensive plan

I can't add much to what sjlashbrook has already said.
I will just say: what most Kenai residents I've heard from and spoken to are concerned about is the protection of the neighborhoods they live in. The "Comprehensive" plan, in its present form, does nothing to accomplish this. If it doesn't protect neighborhoods, you can't call it "Comprehensive"! At the P&Z meeting I attended last month, we were treated to a lecture from one of the commissioners, who seemed to be saying that we should be too busy with our jobs to worry about the neighborhoods we live in, and when we retire we should move to Florida where we can enjoy more pleasant living conditions. If this is the thinking of the P&Z commission it's no wonder they don't seem to care about protecting residential areas. I hope residents will pay attention though, and turn out and let the City Council know their feelings on the matter.

tlfish 03/05/13 - 07:59 am
the comprehensive plan has no room for mobile homes

the comprehensive plan has no room for mobile homes. You cant put one on your own land. If you talk to anyone who owns one the city has been on them about every detail that they can enforce. They are activity trying to get every mobile home out of the city. When i applied for a permit to move into the highland mobile home park i wasn't allowed to submit the application. i was told by a city official that "they are trying to get rid of the mobile homes because the owners don't upkeep their property". After some deliberations trying to find a law or ordnance to base my denial on I was told "it was a personal decision made between the building official and the city manager". the comprehensive plan that the city is pushing seeks to get rid of all possibilities for low income housing and force low income people to move out of city limits. If you dont take home 100000 a year you can afford to build or buy in the city of kenai with the new zoning and adoption of "agenda 21" land use rules.

sjlashbrook 03/05/13 - 02:07 pm
With a New Mayor... comes a NEW SET of P&Z Commissioners!

Brookman's right: the audacity of the P&Z commissioners to suggest that we "run along now" and stay caught up with our jobs and let them worry about the neighborhoods... makes me realize we need to clean the slate on them, too. They are all "Pro-Big-Box-Store" and "Pro-Industry" and forget about the little guy. There's only one way to clean the slate of the P&Z Commissioners who aren't listening: we need a NEW Mayor THIS FALL! The Mayor appoints them (but then, our current Mayor Porter goes to every P&Z Meeting to "monitor" what they're saying, to determine whether they're doing what she wants... if not, out they go next reappointment). It's time for some new blood, folks. It's time for some active listening. The "City" is only made up of the people WE elect, it's nothing without its people.
Tlfish makes a good point. Although in the draft of the Comprehensive Plan they stated they needed Affordable housing and a wide variety of housing options, Rick Koch, Pat Porter, and Marilyn Kebschull decided that does not include mobile homes. Highland is one of the nicest parks on the Kenai Peninsula, and it IS maintained. How dare the City deny innocent mobile home owners needing a place to move their mobile home by telling them that they CAN'T move it into Highland! The audacity! The nerve! Punishing others for the vendetta they hold against Highland owners... ridiculous. Is THAT the City "administration" YOU want running your city? Who'll be next to be unfairly treated?

granny 03/06/13 - 10:07 am
" The commission,

" The commission, consultants,planners and city administration have spent two years refining the document." That statement is accurrate and that is why some of us in the public call it "their" plan. It is easy to document that public input has been ignored. Look at the April 2012 community meeting results. It's not just the MAPS residents who are opposed to commercial encroachment on residential neighborhoods. The only people you will find asking for a "mixed-use" designation along the major city thorough fares are the area Realtors Association and the land division (profit) of the Mental Health Land Trust, and I had to do a public records request from the city to get that information.

This document needs a lot of examination and explaining before it is accepted.
Mark Schrag

bigbadbob 03/07/13 - 09:05 am

Kudos to the administration and our PZ commission. Thank you for working for, and thinking of, the ENTIRE city. We were worried you might succumb to the radical self serving few who have nothing better to do than complain.So easy to throw rocks from afar. You will never please everyone all the time. Job well done. Now its time for the council to seal the deal.

laurasievert 03/07/13 - 11:04 am
I wonder if big bigbadbob, or

I wonder if big bigbadbob, or P&Z members, attended the meetings over the last couple of years that sought public comments on the Comp Plan. I do not think the plan in its current form accurately reflects what people said at those meetings. It's hard to say though; it appears that we are not going to be able to have a final public meeting to look at it.
Kenai residents should pay attention-it is possible that the land use in your neighborhood is being changed. And when P&Z members make comments such as "in the future no one is going to want to live along Beaver Loop" because they have big plans for commercial and industrial development, one wonders if indeed all Kenai residents are being fairly represented.

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