Limits on driveway width at issue in Soldotna

Soldotna resident Jerry Farrington has been trying to add 6 feet to his driveway for more than two years.

 

Applications and appeals have bounced between the Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Adjustment, Soldotna Planning and Zoning Commission and city council in a series of public hearings and meetings concerning the width of Farrington’s personal parking space.

“They say ‘no’ and I say ‘yes,’” Farrington said. “I am persistent in that respect.”

Farrington said the continued request “is a matter of safety and convenience.” The slope of his property makes entering and exiting his driveway unsafe during the winter months. There is no sidewalk along West Riverview Avenue, and street parking is unsafe for pedestrians, he said.

“I understand the bureaucracy and paperwork, and that the city would want to know who has 24-foot driveways,” Farrington said. “The city staff should have the ability to grant a driveway over 24 feet without having to go to the planning and zoning or city council.”

City council member Linda Murphy proposed an ordinance (at the Nov. 12 city council meeting) that would increase the 24-foot limit to 30 feet wide. Both Murphy and Mayor Nels Anderson said they were disappointed with the planning and zoning’s decision to deny the variance.

Since Farrington submitted his first request in 2012, the commission had the option to recommend revisions to the city code twice, which would extend the 24-foot limit, but declined, according to Oct. 8 planning and zoning commission documents. The commission found the limit “was a widely accepted standard that serves a valid purposed and recommended no change,” according to the document.

The city council also voted down an amendment to the code in October 2013 that would have increased the width limit to 30 feet, according to the packet.

The commission continues to conclude that Farrington’s request does not meet all eight zoning standards required for a variation, he said. He said the standards are set by the state, and some do not apply in his case.

Commission member Colleen Denbrock said the commission’s purpose is to uphold city code, according to the Oct. 8 planning and zoning commission meeting packet. Changes need to be made by city council, because the commission does not have that authority.

Following the final appeal to the commission, Farrington said he called each one of the city council members to ask for support. Murphy followed up their conversation by proposing an amendment to city code, he said.

Farrington said he is interested in how his request would be met if the city were operating as a home-rule city.

Anderson said issues such as the driveway expansion are some of the reasons the city is looking to move from first class general-law to home-rule, at the Nov. 12 council meeting. He said the laws were too prohibitive for the council to make exemptions in unique cases such as Farrington’s.

State law and local ordinances define the powers, duties and functions of general-law cities, according to the Alaska Department of Commerce. First class cities may exercise powers not prohibited by law.

“We want to get rid of those (state laws) and let the city set those up rather than be functioning under those rules, which I find to be onerous and non-applicable in a personal manner,” Anderson said in a previous Clarion article.

Farrington said he will attempt to get his name on the Feb. 3 special election ballot as a charter commission candidate. Commissioners will be responsible for drafting the charter the city would adopt if voters approve the move to home-rule.

The public hearing for amending the Soldotna Municipal Code to increase the maximum driveway width allowed in a residential district to 30 feet will be at 6 p.m. on Jan. 14, 2015.

 

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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