Gabriel: Comp plan balances neighborhood needs, city growth

On October 1st, Proposition 1will be on the ballot asking voters repeal Ordinance 2681-2013. Ordinance 2681-2013 was enacted by a 5-1 vote of the City Council on April 17th 2013 approving and adopting a revised Comprehensive Plan for the City of Kenai and recommending adoption by the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Every 10 years, the City of Kenai is tasked with revising and updating the Comprehensive Plan which guides development in the community and provides important information about population, environment, economy, transportation, and land use.

This process was started in the Spring of 2011 and involved several Strategic Planning sessions, 24 work sessions by the Planning and Zoning Commission, outreach and notice to the public throughout the process, consideration of 152 comments to the Draft Plan by the Planning and Zoning Commission, 2 public hearings by the City Council and finally, the deliberation of 51 proposed amendments by the Mayor and Council before this Ordinance was enacted.

Of the 51 proposed amendments deliberated by the City Council, 25 were passed including:

1) Removing mixed use designations along areas of the Kenai Spur Highway and Angler Drive.

2) Reviewing the current Land Use Table for residential zoning districts other than Rural Residential 1 (RR1 has been previously reviewed and amended) in order to protect those neighborhoods against incompatible land uses and support residential development.

3) Reviewing the current Land Use Table zoning districts other than residential to ensure land uses are compatible with the intent of the other zoning districts.

4) Maintain and improve protection of the Kenai River, its beaches, tidelands, and wetland areas.

These are just a few of the amendments passed by council based on concerns brought forward by the public.

When zoning authority was granted to the City of Kenai in the mid-1980s by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, I sensed that the Planning and Zoning Commission, at that time, was struggling with not limiting personal property rights. An indication of that struggle was the types of uses that were inserted into the Land Use Table that are allowed by a conditional use permit in residential neighborhoods. Addressing the need to review the current Land Use Table and providing the opportunity for the public to participate in this process is provided for in the enacted version of the Comprehensive Plan.

Keep in mind that the Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Table does not change the existing Land Use Table currently in code. The Comprehensive Plan is a vision of what the City may look like 20 years into the future.

I supported Ordinance 2681-2013 because I feel that it is a plan that does address protection of neighborhoods while providing for economic growth. I certainly believe that we have the moral obligation to protect neighborhoods and provide residents with the quality of life that they expect living in a smaller community and the changes that were made reflect many of those concerns.

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