Road ordinance put off yet again

Assembly takes time to digest changes to subdivision rules

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2008

After approving major alterations to a long-debated measure meant to revise how subdivision roads are built, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly once again voted to postpone a final vote, this time until Feb. 5.

Ordinance 2007-33 (substitute) would amend to areas of borough code, Titles 14 and 20, and require subdivision roads be built to borough maintenance standards before a developer gets a final plat approval for the subdivision.

The law also includes numerous other provisions allowing exemptions and phased construction schedules. It also outlines how the borough could participate in the costs of building access roads linking new subdivisions to existing maintained roads if those linking roads were longer than 330 feet, or if borough needs dictated building the linking road to a higher standard than might normally be required to serve the subdivision.

The major revision to the draft ordinance, however, involved eliminating a seven-page section that detailed aspects of accords developers would have to sign with the borough if some roads were not to be built to borough standards before final plat approval.

Called "subdivision agreements," they were to cover cases where development was to be phased in, and would have required builders to proposed tentative construction schedules, provide estimates of costs, and demonstrate financial responsibility with performance bonds or escrow accounts, among other things.

After tossing out the seven pages of guarantee language, the assembly approved provisions establishing a Road Service Area policy that could offer the same options to developers. Under its terms, however, the RSA board would adopt subdivision agreements on a case-by-case basis, laying out any necessary guarantees.

Expressing some discomfort with turning specific ordinance language into a policy provision and leaving details of subdivision agreements up to the RSA board, Assembly President Grace Merkes of Sterling moved to change a clause requiring mayoral approval of agreements reached between the developer and the RSA board.

Instead, such agreements will now require the approval of the entire assembly.

Assistant Borough Attorney Holly Montague said any subdivision agreement would likely contain some "boilerplate" items, but the policy is flexible, allowing for differences between subdivision developments.

Assemblyman Pete Sprague of Soldotna moved to postpone final action on the measure until Feb. 5.

"There is a lot of changes that were made to this ordinance this evening, and regardless of the fact of we had them in our packet or not (meaning they'd had several days to consider them), I still think we need more time to digest these; give one more crack at it," he said.

A move to postpone it to the second meeting in February was briefly considered, but because the roads ordinance, if passed, would not take effect for 90 days, the assembly opted to take up the measure again Feb. 5, so that it's provisions would not change road rules after the new construction season had begun.

In a related matter, the assembly also approved for introduction Ordinance 2008-03, a measure that would require special permit conditions for the design and construction of bridges crossing anadromous rivers, creeks, streams and other water bodies and rights of way accessing those water bodies.

The ordinance is meant to protect salmon habitat by requiring crossings to be built to withstand a 100-year flood event, and that approaches to those bridges be constructed in such a way as to assist bridges in withstanding such flooding. That is very likely to drive up the costs of stream crossings.

Many of the details of Ordinance 2008-03 were once part of the subdivision road ordinance mentioned above, but were eliminated in favor of bringing them back in a separate measure that would apply boroughwide, not just to subdivisions near existing maintained roads.

Ordinance 2008-03 gets a public hearing on Feb. 19.

Hal Spence can be reached at

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