Kenai residents will vote on the city’s comprehensive plan in its October election, following the validation of a petition that challenges the city council’s recent approval of that plan.
“Let’s put it on the ballot and see if it’s just a core group of people,” said Mark Schrag, a resident of the MAPS subdivision who spearheaded the petition.
Since the plan’s inception, residents of the MAPS subdivision — Magic and Aliak Drive, Princess Street, and the Kenai Spur Highway — Beaver Loop Road, and Angler Drive have testified against it. Few other city residents have testified in the same vain.
Kenai Mayor Pat Porter and City Manager Rick Koch have said the testimony contrary to the plan’s passage has not represented a large portion of the city’s residents. Porter said that is why she thinks the plan is ready for adoption.
Schrag takes a different stance.
He said he and the group of those who have testified against the plan represent a larger portion of the city’s residents. He compared it to salmon jumping in their run.
“You may only see 10 jumpers, but you know there are thousands below the surface,” he said.
Schrag collected 233 city resident signatures — 25 percent of the city’s last regular election turnout — from VIP and MAPS subdivisions, Beaver Loop Road, Highland Trailer Park, Rodgers Road, Lawton Drive, and other neighborhoods, he said.
The city validated the petition Monday. Residents can vote on the plan in the city’s regular Oct. 2 elections, unless the city council calls for a special election. But City Clerk Sandra Modigh said it is unlikely the city would fund an additional election.
The majority of pushback stems from Chapter 5, the land use plan. Schrag said that chapter largely ignores the requests of residents. He said the chapter proposes “commercial sprawl” along the city’s Kenai Spur Highway corridor and commercialization among residential buffers.
He is also disappointed that the plan does not include more about developing a city center.
The plan-drafting process began more than two years ago, and since then the plan has passed through two community-wide public meetings, 24 public work sessions and solicited 152 public comments. The city also distributed two newsletters, various public notices and sent out two community surveys.
The plan is a guide for the city’s future. It provides a “general guide for land use decisions,” the “legal basis for zoning,” “land use regulations,” “permitting” and “all land use decisions made by the city,” according to the plan.
Porter and Koch have referred to the plan as a “guide” for the city’s development — and “nothing is set in stone,” Porter said.
Until the October election, the city’s comprehensive plan will lay dormant, Modigh said. She said Schrag’s petition is not uncommon; she has seen several referendums in the past.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at email@example.com.