The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Wednesday debated when to introduce an ordinance crafted by the Anadromous Fish Habitat Protection Task Force that makes several changes to borough code regulating its habitat protection district.
The assembly pulled Ordinance 2013-18 off its consent agenda and considered a motion from member Kelly Wolf to postpone its hearing date until Aug. 6.
“This ordinance is huge,” Wolf said. “It expands the River Center and we really do need to see a fiscal note. And, I think we’ve heard loud and clear from the public that there’s a lot of negativity out there and I think the public notices need to be delivered to those individuals and the public needs to hear about this.”
Wolf’s motion failed. The ordinance was introduced, 7-1, and set for public hearing on June 18, which is the same date the assembly will hold public hearings on Wolf’s ordinance to repeal Ordinance 2011-12.
After almost nine months of presentations, discussions, consideration of public comments, letters, and three town hall meetings where residents dissected their efforts, the task force approved in late April a packaged recommendation that repeals the controversial Ordinance 2011-12, reintroduces a modified set of streams and lakes for protection and makes significant changes to borough code 21.18, which regulates the anadromous habitat protection district.
The package included the now-Ordinance 2013-18, two separate recommendations, and a final report penned by the group’s facilitator, Paul Ostrander, and other members of the task force.
Assembly member Charlie Pierce said he is not sure there had ever been another single issue before the assembly that received as much attention as Ordinance 2011-12.
He initially supported moving the hearing date for the task force’s ordinance back in hopes that a separate ordinance requiring fiscal notes would be approved requiring one to be attached to the task force’s work.
He said he would like to do a cost-benefit analysis on the legislation and stop making “assumptions.”
“There are a number of individuals that are very competent that say, ‘It’s not going to be very much. It’s going to be just fine. Trust me,’” he said. “Well, I don’t trust you. I don’t trust your judgment tonight.
“Some of us claim that we are fiscally responsible and conservatives and we’re going after that savings. But yet they are willing to say, ‘Yeah, I’ll do this.’ This is a feel good thing and I don’t feel real good about it.”
Navarre said his administration would work to put a fiscal note on the task force’s package, but cautioned that whatever he brings forward is a best guess on the cost.
“We’ll work up some before the public hearing and provide that to the assembly,” he said.
Assembly member Bill Smith said he didn’t support postponement of the hearing because the assembly purposefully aligned the ordinance’s hearing with Wolf’s repeal attempt to notice landowners only once.
The notice is already an “extensive and expensive process,” Smith said and the assembly could always delay a vote if it wanted to look more closely at the costs of the ordinance or hold more public hearings.
Smith also disputed Wolf’s claims.
“Mr. Wolf’s speculation of the huge expansion of the River Center is actually not at all factual,” he said. “So I won’t support extending the introduction date because I think we have good reason to set it for introduction so we can be timely and notice everybody about the topic and not have a confusion about what’s being heard at what time.”
Said assembly member Brent Johnson, “It doesn’t look like a giant cost coming down the pike. I’m ready to get this thing moving forward.”
The assembly will meet at 6 p.m. June 18 at the George A. Navarre Borough Building at 144 N. Binkley Street in Soldotna. For more information on the Task Force’s recommendation visit: http://bit.ly/10MLGYF.