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Kenai comp plan sees further council revisions

Posted: April 4, 2013 - 9:01pm  |  Updated: April 5, 2013 - 8:45am

Kenai City Council members heavily amended a draft comprehensive plan during a three and a half hour council meeting Wednesday night. The council has to vote on all the remaining amendments before it can pass the comprehensive plan to the Kenai Peninsula Borough for approval.

Two amendments the council unanimously passed concern the mixed-use land use classification proposed for the Kenai Spur Highway and the strip of trees along Walker Lane that buffer residents from commercial development.

Council Member Terry Bookey proposed an amendment to eliminate the mixed-use classification on the Kenai Spur Highway from Princess Street to Highbush Lane and reclassify it as suburban residential on the land use map.

He said his proposal came from months of public testimony against the mixed-use classification.

“I have absolutely no problem, my personal self, from Princess (Street) to McCollum (Drive), and I would definitely support that,” Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said. But she cannot support Bookey’s entire proposal.

She said businesses along the highway will benefit from the change in land use classification. Many of the businesses along the highway are already in homes, she said.

After debate, the council changed Bookey’s amendment to reclassify the highway corridor from Princess Street to McCollum Drive as suburban residential but left McCollum Drive from Highbush Lane as mixed-use on the land use map.

Since public testimony on the plan, a group of city residents have been opposed to the proposed mixed-use land use classification along the Kenai Spur Highway corridor.

“Mixed use just leaves so much else, so many other commercial things,” Princess Drive resident Mark Schrag said at Wednesday’s meeting.

Other residents said they did not want commercial businesses like Walmarts encroaching on the neighborhoods near the highway. Don Wright said at a March 29 city work session that he did not want the highway to look like the stretch of the Sterling Highway that runs through Soldotna.

Those supporting the mixed-use classification said it is necessary for the city’s development.

“Basically what we’re building here is the thoroughfare between Kenai and Soldotna,” said Gary Hinkle, a property owner along the highway. He said the highway will become similar to the Seward Highway.

Hinkle said certain businesses that would like to move to town require highway-front property and that land needs to be put in the “highest possible use.”

“Mixed (use) and commercial (land use classifications) is a minimum,” he said.

Clifford Smith, a small buisness owner and planning and zoning commissioner, said he bought a piece of property along the highway that he intends one day to develop and move his Soldotna-based business into.

“Think about the impact your decisions would have on other businesses moving to the area,” Smith said to the council.

The mixed-use classification on the land use map “fosters a compatible mix of retail, service, office, public, institutional, recreational and residential uses,” according to the plan.

Also Bookey proposed the amendment to reclassify the buffer of trees west of Walker Lane as parks, recreation and open space on the land use map.

“I think that section of land serves a very valuable purpose,” he said. It is a buffer between incompatible land uses — the commercial development west of Walker Lane and homes east of the street.

The tree buffer runs from the highway to West Tern Avenue.

Borough Planner Crista Cady said the borough supports retaining the Walker Lane buffer strip.

After discussion, Vice Mayor Ryan Marquis suggested amending the proposal to cut down roughly a third of Bookey’s proposed parks, recreation and open space for the buffer of trees.

The council unanimously passed Bookey’s amendment with Marquis’ stipulation.

The final amendment classifies about two-thirds of the buffer as parks, recreation and open space — from about where the driveway access cuts through to McDonald’s from the street to the south end of the buffer. It classifies the rest as commercial.

Porter said the city airport owns the plot containing the buffer and the land has to be used for its benefit. She said the city may have to buy the plot from the airport to keep it as a buffer strip.

But City Manager Rick Koch said that will not be necessary as the buffer is in the interest of the commercial development and the airport.

All amendments the council approved will be incorporated in the plan’s final version. The council will meet next to vote on the rest of the amendments April 17 at Kenai City Hall, 210 Fidalgo Ave.


Dan Schwartz can be reached at

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granny 04/05/13 - 06:45 pm
Where to start? There is so

Where to start? There is so much b.s. coming out of city hall right now. And the level of disrespect the council and mayor are showering on city residents is off the charts.

What's the hurry? Many people are asking for more time to work on this document because it and the process that created it are so flawwed. Mr. Hinkle, a Soldotna resident, is the first person outside of planning and zoning commission members to show up and support the new plan. THE FIRST PERSON! Many people, all Kenai residents, (more than the 10 the mayor claims) have shown up to testify against it. But no, mr. Soldotna businessman gets what he wants! The rest of us are thrown a few bones.

And some of those bones are poisoned. They are not doing the MAPS residents a favor by removing mixed-use and changing the land classification to suburban residential because it brings back all those conditional-use permits we worked so hard to get out of our neighborhood when we reworked the RR1 land use table. Why the heck do you think the mayor supported that part of Terry Bookey's amendment? And Terry has been told what his amendment would do. That is just incredibly disrepectful of all the effort exerted by residents of the MAPS neighborhood (who in my 17 years here have never been allowed to have a representative on the planning commission) in trying to find a reasonable compromise to the lust some people have for a commercialized highway.

Mr. Smith could have his business on the highway right now with a conditional use permit. I would support that. I have no problem with low impact professional offices. Mixed-use opens the door to all sorts of high impact businesses. The overwhelming majority of Kenai residents are opposed to this urban sprawl. It's documented!

Come on council, show some respect. Even if the mayor was right about only 10 people out of 7,000(this is on video) showing up to oppose the new plan, if this was a voting booth, we win.

Silly me, why should I be surprised that politicians ignore the will of the people. Mark Schrag, continuing to work hard for a healthy balance between residential and business interests.

KMarx 04/05/13 - 08:19 pm
True Colors

"Come on council, show some respect. Even if the mayor was right about only 10 people out of 7,000(this is on video) showing up to oppose the new plan, if this was a voting booth, we win. "

Pretty much sums it up doesn't it? Granny it's obvious you don't care what the majority of Kenai thinks. The council members represent each of the 7,000 residents of Kenai, not just a few perpetual noisemakers.

sjlashbrook 04/08/13 - 10:42 am
The "majority" of Kenai residents cannot be ascribed an opinion

Okay, KMarx, how is it exactly that you and the Mayor have ascribed what the "majority of the 7,000 Kenai residents" think, when none of that "majority" have come and spoken in favor of the Plan? No matter how you spin it, inaction does not equate to "approval," just as it does not equate to "disapproval." And, those who speak against it should not be deemed by you or the Mayor as those who "don't care what the majority of Kenai thinks." How in the world did you come up with that brilliant deduction? Who knows what the majority thinks when they fail to make their thoughts known? The only person who spoke in favor of the plan is a Soldotna businessman, yet I personally have read at least two dozen constructive comments requesting changes from people who live and/or have businesses in Kenai and are invested in and committed to its future. So these busy residents who have taken the time to respond at the open invitation to do so are now considered "perpetual noisemakers" because their opinions don't align with yours, Porter's, and the City Administrators'? WHOA.
Last time I checked, we don't have dictatorships or monarchies in the US, and it's "Mayor" Porter not "Queen" Porter, who was ELECTED and can be UNELECTED.
If 10 or 20 or 30 people have shown up and voiced their opinions. those opinions should be listened to. They should not be discarded because they offer a different view. Everyone's opinion is important, including yours, KMarx, so if you have one, stand up and be counted... but please don't discount the opinions of everyone else.
As to the level of disrespect shown by the Mayor and those currently in power, Mark Schrag has shown the courage to shed light on a concept which, while it may be unpopular to those in City Government, has been witnessed by many, many people... and the list of dissatisfied residents is growing. It's one thing to professionally and politely disagree... it's quite another to be shrieked at and systematically "shut down" and rudely "cut off" by the Mayor every time one promotes a concept with which she disagrees. This happens repeatedly at council meetings. It is ridiculous and should not be tolerated.
Alaska's Constitution, Section 1.2 - Source of Government, states: "All political power is inherent in the people. All government originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the people as a whole."
Read that part about "is founded upon THEIR will ONLY" one more time. I smell term limits coming soon to a City near you, and a fresh, impartial City Government who remembers who they work for....

beaverlooper 04/08/13 - 12:52 pm
A person can go to the Kenai

A person can go to the Kenai city counsel all they want and it won't mean a thing.The decisions are all ready made out of the public eye in a back room somewhere. If you want a voice make a petition, get people to sign it and VOTE on it.It's the way maps saved their neighborhood. That stretch of trees along walker lane ,the city decided to change the land use from the ILLEGAL road that goes from Walker Lane to McDonalds /Aspen. They tried that before and the borough plat says it's a conservation area.The city tried to get that changed and the borough said no.
Any business that tries to build there should be sued and the city of Kenai should face criminal charges.

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