Soldotna council member Keith Baxter is introducing an ordinance on the council’s Wednesday consent agenda to amend a section of Soldotna’s code concerning special assessment district projects.
The section of the code proposed to be amended deals with the weight of consideration given to property owner objections to SAD projects — projects in which affected property owners pay a portion of the costs.
According to the original code 3.18.100 section D, “if written objections are filed by the owners of parcels bearing one-half or more of the estimated cost of the improvement, the city council may not proceed with the improvement.”
If the council is able to pass the special assessment district with a three-fourths majority vote or is able to revise the district so that the property owners objecting to the project are responsible for less than 50 percent of the district, then the council may move forward in the process, according to the code.
With districts in which the city is funding 75 percent of the total estimated cost, it sets an impossible standard for the property owners to object to the cost of the project by 50 percent, Baxter said.
“It didn’t really sit right with several members of the council, myself included,” Baxter said.
Baxter’s ordinance revises the code so that written objections by property owners pertain to the assessed cost to the property owners of the improvement instead of the total cost of the improvement.
“With that clarification … their objections will carry more weight as they’re intended to,” Baxter said.
He said council discussed the section of code the proposed amendment addresses at its Jan. 8 work session about the SAD procedure as well as at other work sessions specific to the proposed Lord Baranof Street and North Aspen Drive districts, which the council recently voted down.
With those two projects, the council took objections into consideration when making its decision, Baxter said.
Council member Linda Murphy said the city-initiated districts are troubling to her.
“When we go into neighborhoods and the city says, well, we’re going to pave your road whether you want us to or not and you’re going to pay for part of it, I don’t think that’s right,” she said.
If there is opposition from the majority of the people bearing the cost of the improvements, the council shouldn’t move forward with the project. However, if there is great public interest for the project or there are safety reasons to make improvements or the primary benefit is to the city, the city should take on the cost, Murphy said.
City Manager Mark Dixson said the administration hasn’t discussed bringing forward any changes to the code or made a decision on whether or not to move forward with the failed districts as city funded projects.
The city council meeting is at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Soldotna City Hall.
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