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Modelers keep $1 a year lease with Borough

Posted: June 24, 2013 - 9:58pm

A group of modelers will keep their scaled-down airfield in operation following last week’s Borough Assembly vote to continue leasing 31 acres of a former area landfill at $1 per year.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough approved plans for a 20-year lease of the former Kenai Landfill site to Peninsula Modelers Inc. at less than market rate — 10 years with two five-year extensions.

The previous lease with the borough expired May 31.

The site, which is valued at $177,000, according to the ordinance’s sponsor Kenai Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, is given in exchange for the groups’ training of Civil Air Patrol Cadets and other interested kids on aeronautics.

The modelers have also been good stewards of the vacant landfill site, Navarre said.

Borough land manager Marcus Mueller, said the modelers’ continued presence on the land is both low impact and helpful. During a May presentation to the planning commission, he said the group helps to maintain and monitor the landfill.

Flyers are always out there on the weekends; periodically they fly during the week, but it depends on the winds, which are better in the morning and early evening, according to Mike Bailey, vice president of Peninsula Modelers Inc.

During the previous 20 years of use, the modelers graded and seeded two 100-foot grass runways — each following a cardinal direction — and built a storage area. Over the years, the modelers club has hosted scale-sized fly-ins.

Peninsula Modelers president William Topa said his group wants what few others do.

“It is obvious that any development is severely restricted due to environmental concerns,” Topa said in a May 1 letter to the borough.

There has been recent interest in building a racetrack for remote control cars and trucks, Topa said. If built, the track would serpentine through an 80-by-200-foot graded oval in the corner of the property.

“If enough interest develops that could occur in the next year or two,” he said.

Bailey keeps a few “smaller planes” along with his primary flier, a quarter-scale Super Cub that has a nine-foot wingspan. The planes are used to introduce the cadets to the principle of aviation. He’s seen some cadets go from “sheer terror to all smiles” while controlling the planes at the site.

“They seem to really enjoy it,” Bailey said.

Mueller recommended the borough continue the lease for up to another 20 years.

During its May 28 meeting, the Kenai Borough Planning Commission, with nine of 14 commissioners present, recommended with unanimous consent that the lease be renewed.

In forwarding the lease to approval during the June 18 meeting the borough skipped the process of advertising the lease negotiations by saying it was necessary for “the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial property right.”

The modelers have six months to sign the lease.

Reach Greg Skinner at greg.skinner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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