Kenai City Council finalized and approved its comprehensive plan following an about three-hour discussion on its amendments at a Wednesday night council meeting. Now the plan is headed for the Kenai Peninsula Borough for final approval.
The council voted on more than 20 amendments concerning land use classification and how to facilitate greater public input when updating its comprehensive plan in the future, among other topics. Nearly all the amendments came from council members Bob Molloy and Mike Boyle.
Molloy pitched five amendments to reclassify proposed Mixed Use and Industrial land uses along the Kenai Spur Highway, Kalifornsky Beach Road and four plots of land near the Kenai Municipal Airport.
Molloy said they were an effort to preserve the buffers between residential neighborhoods and future or existing development.
Boyle agreed that was important.
“We’ve had this discussion before,” Boyle said. “There was a referendum, and it’s the wishes of the public and the people in the voting booths.”
But the amendments met little support.
Molloy motioned to change the Mixed Use land classification to Rural Residential on all properties zoned residential between Bow Picker Lane and Ketch Street, along the K-Beach Road corridor.
In another motion he proposed reclassifying a plot that boarders the Spur Highway from Mixed Use land use classification to Parks, Recreation and Open Space. The portion of the plot is between Beluga Drive West and the Spur Highway.
He motioned also to change other plots along the Spur Highway, currently zoned residential and recreational, from Mixed Use land use classification to Suburban Residential. The plots start at the intersection of Forrest Drive and run north to Redoubt Drive. His motion only includes the plots labeled Mixed Use in that area.
Another motion would have changed two plots west of the airport — tracts B and D — from Industrial to Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, but it failed.
The other three motions failed, too.
“Those two corners are perfect for development,” Council Member Tim Navarre said about the two Mixed Use corner plots abutting Redoubt Drive and Evergreen Street.
About the plot between Beluga Drive West and the Spur Highway, Mayor Pat Porter said the airport owns the land. Porter said the city would either need to buy or lease the land if it wishes to reclassify its land use.
“That land is how the airport makes its money,” Porter said.
But the land is already open space, Boyle said. Reclassifying it would only “change the vision of what to do with it,” he said. Buying it is a “moot point,” he said.
The only amendment of the five that passed, against a single objection from Navarre, reclassified two parcels west of the airport as Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces. The city-owned parcels — tracts A and C — were previously partially classified as industrial.
One of Boyle’s amendments proposed changing the land use classification in the area of the MAPS subdivision — Magic and Aliak Drive, Princess Street, and the Kenai Spur Highway. He motioned to change the properties in that area from Suburban Residential land use classification to Rural Residential.
Molloy said the residents of the subdivision have fought that for years.
“When you’re looking to the future, you can’t forget the lessons of the past,” he said.
But the amendment failed 5-2, with Boyle and Molloy voting for its passage.
Porter said the MAPS subdivision has water, sewer and paved roads. Rural Residential is no longer a suitable fit, she said.
City Planner Marilyn Kebschull referenced the plan’s Rural Residential land use definitions. According to the definition, “homes in this district typically rely on individual on-site water supply and wastewater disposal systems” and “streets typically are gravel.”
City Manager Rick Koch said that is not the case with the subdivision. “The flavor of that area has changed over the last 20 years,” Koch said.
But MAPS subdivision resident Don Wright said that is wrong. He said many roads are only partially paved, or not at all. Another MAPS subdivision resident, Mark Schrag, agreed.
Boyle motioned also to add developing a public campground as a high priority to the plan.
After the council amended the wording of the motion to “investigate and consider” developing a public campground, the motion passed unanimously.
Council member Terry Bookey proposed the amendment to Boyle’s motion. Boyle and Molloy were the only council members who voted for the original motion.
Navarre said he did not support the original motion because the city likely does not have the funding to build a public campground.
“I’m starting to get concerned about how we’re starting to put wish lists into the comp plan,” he said.
Bookey, however, supported the park’s development. The city used to have a public park, he said, but “we now have a shopping center there.”
“It’s unfathomable to me that we don’t have one,” he said. “People come from all over the world to come here and we don’t have a campground.”
Funding may be an issue, he said, but developing another park is important.
Once council voted on the amendments, Molloy motioned to postpone approval of the plan. Boyle seconded the motion.
Molloy said he wanted administration to prepare a completed table of all the amendments for the council to review at its next meeting. It would also allow the public more time to comment on the plan, he said.
Bookey disagreed. The council voted it down 5-2. Molloy and Boyle voted in favor of the postponement.
“With another two weeks, I suppose, someone could come up with amendments,” Bookey said. But how many more weeks can the city keep “this wound open?” he said.
The city has solicited public input since mid-September. It has collected 152 public comments, held 24 public work sessions, distributed two newsletters and various public notices and two community surveys.
Residents, however, have said they would like more time to critique the plan.
Boyle acknowledged the city’s planning and zoning commission, administration and council invested a lot of time into the plan, but he has “great reservations” with the document, he said.
“I would have preferred to have another couple of weeks to look at it,” he said.
He said the public has failed to grasp that the document is revised annually. He said also there has been a lack of discussion for developing a city center, and the “urban sprawl” suggested in changes to land use along the Kenai Spur Highway bother him.
There has been a lot of public input, he said, and “in my heart, I feel that we’ve ignored that.”
The council voted 6-1 to pass the comprehensive plan. Boyle voted against it.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.