Kenai residents need to wait 90 more days before the Kenai City Council will vote on its proposed chicken ordinance as city administration will use the time to further refine the measure.
Council member Mike Boyle, the prime sponsor of Ordinance 2656-2012, introduced the ordinance to allow city residents to own backyard chickens without going through the city’s conditional use permit process, which he said is cumbersome.
“The idea is so citizens can do as they please without having to go through the Planning and Zoning Commission,” Boyle said at the council meeting Wednesday night.
But the ordinance has been waylaid since it was introduced in late November.
Residents who testified at the November council meeting, the January planning and zoning meeting and Wednesday’s council meeting said chickens within city limits will attract bears.
In November’s council meeting, Jeff Selinger, Kenai area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, told the council that chickens were the leading cause for defense of life and property brown bear killings in 2012 on the Kenai Peninsula.
Electric fences, however, when set up properly, have proven “very successful” at deterring the bears, he said.
Clifford Smith, a Kenai resident and planning and zoning commissioner, said Wednesday that chicken ownership within city limits would also contradict the city’s policy of prohibiting bear attractants.
Other concerns were that the ordinance, as written, would cause conflict among neighbors as it does not require that they notify one another when obtaining fowl.
Henry Knackstedt, the commission’s vice chair, said the committee had other concerns, too. The conditional use permit is already an available option for those seeking chickens, and the required distance the coup be set back from a person’s home is not far enough, he said.
As a result of the concerns, the planning and zoning committee unanimously voted down the ordinance at its January work session.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, Boyle proposed amending the ordinance to increase the coup set-back range to 15 feet and require that future chicken owners notify animal control.
The amendment passed. Kenai Mayor Pat Porter was the only council member who opposed it.
To address further concerns with the ordinance, Council member Terry Bookey made a motion for the council to postpone the ordinance for 90 days so city administration could fit the ordinance to kennel ordinance framework.
Boyle proposed amending the 90-day postponement to 45 days and Council member Bob Molloy seconded it, but the rest of the council voted against it.
City council will readdress the chicken ordinance in June.
The council also delayed action on its comprehensive plan at Wednesday’s meeting, following testimony from Molloy and several residents.
The city voted unanimously to hold two more public hearings at its council meetings March 20 and April 3.
Molloy requested that the city elicit more public input, however. He made a motion to hold another town hall meeting like the early September one at the Kenai Senior Center, additional work sessions and more public hearings.
“The city should have broad public support for the plan,” Molloy said, adding he does not currently see such support.
Boyle seconded the motion, but the rest of council quickly killed it.
Porter said the city already has elicited enough input from residents. If they were not paying attention the first time, she does not know how the city would garner more input the second time around, she said.
“Twenty-four hearings to me, if you’re not listening, is plenty,” she said.
City Manager Rick Koch said even if the plan passes as it is written, the city revisits it each year.
“This thing’s meant to be a living document,” he said — nothing is set in stone.
Residents, however, have said that they are afraid certain areas of the plan are a slippery slope for ushering in commercial development.
The mixed use classification in the land use map, on page 52 of the plan, is a specific area of concern, Kenai resident Gerald Brookman wrote in an email to the council.
“I fully understand that this map is not in itself a rezoning, but it would be used to justify such a rezoning at some point in the future,” Brookman wrote.
He said the plan should protect residential neighborhoods from such classifications.
City planning assistant Nancy Carver said the land use map only foreshadows how the city anticipates future growth. She said it is not concrete and it is not a tool for zoning.
“It is a vision,” Carver said.
The majority of the mixed use classification is proposed for the Kenai Spur Highway, a location not conducive for residential living anyway, she said.
The mixed use classification would allow smaller businesses like taxidermy, gunsmithing shops, day cares or churches to move in; it would not open the doors for Walmarts or gas stations, she said.
“We see business going up and down that highway and not residential uses,” she said.
But that could change, she said.