Kenai says no to comprehensive plan

Kenai voters repealed the city’s controversial comprehensive plan in Tuesday’s municipal election.

 

“No more Lowe’s. No more Walmarts. No more businesses that will leave within two or three years and leave big, empty buildings,” Kenai resident Natalie Kohler said.

She and Jodi Stuart voted to repeal the plan. Both Kenai residents said the plan promotes development unfit for the city.

Tuesday, other Kenai residents voted down Kenai Proposition No. 1, which asked voters to repeal or keep the city’s recently completed comprehensive plan. Mark Schrag, who ran for a Kenai council seat and lost, filed the referendum. Voters elected to repeal the plan by a 580 to 221 margin.

The other three propositions address old charter code. Residents voted “yes” on Porpositions Nos. 2, 3 and 4.

Schrag said he filed the referendum to repeal the comprehensive plan for many reasons. The plan promotes developmental “sprawl.” It disregards the development of a city center. It ignores resident and business interests. Its public process was flawed, he said.

“I’ve been working two campaigns,” he said, “and I really feel Prop 1 is the important one.”

He is excited voters denied the plan. Though he lost his council campaign, he won his campaign to repeal the plan, he said.

Kohler said the plan needed to address all the city’s vacant buildings, like the Carrs Mall and the blue, broken-glass building across from the Regal Kambe, not seek to develop new ones. A good plan would target those for remodeling or destruction, she said.

Stuart said the zoning proposed in the plan promoted “sprawl.” And it was not a first; the history of the issue is evident in zoning past plans have approved, she said.

Supporters of the plan say it promoted centralizing development and establishing a city center — but few politicians even agree where the city center is.

“They say one thing but their plan says another,” she said.

Kohler wants the city to go back to square one and rework the plan. The proposed plan’s values did not align with hers, she said.

Henry Knackstedt, Planning and Zoning Commission vice chair, said more than $100,000 and hundreds of hours had been spent developing the plan. Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Jeff Twait said the plan was ready for approval.

Now repealed, Knackstedt said the voters threw out all that work.

 

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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