With little fanfare, the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday accepted the resignation of council member Lisa Parker. Parker was absent.
A corporate relations representative for Agrium in Nikiski, Parker informed the council a week ago she planned to resign due to job responsibilities. She has been a council member since 2002.
City Clerk Teresa Fahning told the council a replacement must be appointed within 30 days.
Fahning said the appointee would hold the council seat until the next general election in October, at which time the position will go on the ballot to elect someone to fill the remaining one year of Parker’s term.
Applications for the vacancy are being accepted at Soldotna City Hall until 5 p.m. Feb. 7.
The council also conducted its second public hearing on a proposal to change the city code regulating size and placement of freestanding signs in the commercial district.
Among proposed changes to the freestanding sign code are a 20-foot height limit and a setback limitation of 20 feet from the back of the curb. The current city code permits signs as high as 35 feet.
Many signs in Soldotna would not comply, and during the first public hearing Jan. 10, council members discussed the possibility of grandfathering in existing signs.
Without a grandfather clause, freestanding signs would need to be brought into compliance by June 30, 2017, if the new ordinance is approved.
“The purpose of the sign ordinance is to beautify the city,” said Cherie Curry, owner of The Crossing restaurant. “If we grandfather in the existing signs, we’re not beautifying the city.”
Bill Hart, owner of Alaska Maxi Storage on the Kenai Spur Highway, said he recently “spent a lot of money” on the electronic message sign in front of his strip mall and storage facility.
The business is outside Soldotna city limits, but is within the boundaries of a section of territory the city is considering for annexation.
“I built the sign (to be) in compliance with state law,” Hart said.
“I intended the sign we built to be there a long time,” he said.
Hart suggested the council consider requiring noncompliant signs to be replaced when businesses change ownership or when the type of business on the property changes.
Jim Fassler told the council he belongs to an organization that is considering moving into Hart’s building.
“One of the considerations was that sign,” Fassler said, referring to the large sign that displays digital, photo-display messages for tenants of the mall, alternating with time and temperature messages.
The owner of Mykel’s restaurant in the Soldotna Inn, Alice Paulson, said her building was built inside the proposed 20-foot setback, and her business sign is in the right of way.
She said she would erect a new sign to be in compliance with the city code, but would want some assurance that the city council “doesn’t change the rules again in 10 years.”
Soldotna resident Penny Vadla said the proposed sign ordinance “would make Soldotna more appealing.”
Following the public comments, council member Ed Sleater moved to adopt the ordinance, but council member Jim Stogsdill asked for one more public hearing.
In the meantime, he said he would like the city administration to provide the council with a list of how many signs would not be in compliance with the proposed ordinance, and he would like to see language addressing possible variances for signs that were only slightly out of compliance, “those that are 20 1/2 feet high ... 19 1/2 feet from the curb.”
A third public hearing on the changes was set for Feb. 28.
During his mayor’s report, Dave Carey said Kenai Peninsula College would like to administer the selection procedure for the municipal scholarship program.
City Manager Tom Boedeker said an anonymous benefactor originally donated $425,000 for the scholarships and for the historical society. Last year, $8,600 was made available for scholarship awards, he said.
He said the benefactor had asked that some scholarships be given for academics and some for vocational pursuits, but no one has ever applied for the vocational awards.
Carey said the decision to award the scholarships would still be wholly that of the council. The council agreed that he should proceed with discussions with the college.
In other business, Boedeker said the city does not have any property available for a municipal cemetery and suggested the council stipulate desired criteria in terms of type of land and accessibility, and a local real estate professional would be retained to search for a suitable site.
He said the issue would be on the council’s agenda Feb. 28.
During a public comment period at the end of the council meeting, Fassler asked rhetorically, “If the 8.1 acres at troopers is suitable for a building, why is it not suitable for a cemetery?”
Fassler was referring to a parcel of city-owned land next to the Alaska State Trooper “E” Detachment headquarters, being eyed by Love INC for a homeless shelter. No decision has been made on deeding the land for the shelter.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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