Borough assembly rejects Cooper Landing appeal

Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2000

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, acting as Board of Adjustment, rejected Tuesday's appeal of a controversial Cooper Landing subdivision.

"There are provisions for an administrative appeal to Alaska Superior Court, and that appears to be what's indicated," said Bob Baldwin, president of the Friends of Cooper Landing, which appealed the preliminary plat for the Sunrise View Subdivision on borough land overlooking Kenai Lake near Quartz Creek.

However, he said, FOCL has not decided whether to continue its appeal in court.

There are two main points of contention, he said. The first is the proposal to sell Tract A, a 10-acre parcel many Cooper Landing residents value for wildlife habitat and recreation. The community's plan for borough lands classified Tract A for preservation.

"We're adamantly opposed to developing it," Baldwin said. "It should remain in its natural state forever. It is part of a wintering area for the Langille Mountain sheep herd."

Dall sheep lamb on the cliffs overlooking Tract A, he said, and brown bears travel its northern edge. Residents and tourists come to watch the sheep and to hike, snowmachine and ski.

"Then, we have the issue of properly developing a subdivision in Cooper Landing, including preserving the natural setting and habitat, and preparing the subdivision for sale," he said.

FOCL wants green belts -- buffers to protect the wetlands and streams -- and subdivision covenants to ban uses incompatible with residential living, he said. It wants subdivision roads built to borough standards before any lots are sold.

Otherwise, he said, "what's been pitched is, one of Cooper Landing's premier subdivisions was going to be accessed by Jeep trails."

Kenai assembly member Tim Navarre said the assembly already has considered the political issue of whether to sell Tract A. Tuesday's appeal dealt only with whether the preliminary plat satisfied requirements in borough code, he said, and whether it was fair to all sides.

"I think it was," he said.

Sterling assembly member Grace Merkes said the borough planning commission already has considered FOCL's objections. The point is to offer Tract A for sale, she said, because a private citizen has requested the offering.

"I just believe it's a good piece of property in a residential area," she said.

The borough has reserved green belts by the highway to protect the view, she said, and people will still be able to see sheep on the mountain.

Merkes said she has visited the land and sees little evidence of recreational use. Even so, the borough has preserved public access along the old Sterling Highway right of way.

"There's plenty of land in Cooper Landing that's available for recreation," she said. "There's about 7,000 acres in Cooper Landing that's been classified for preservation. I think some of that land needs to be made available to the public."

Borough surveyor Max Best said the borough has added buffers to protect the creeks and to protect the wetlands bordering Tract A.

Assistant borough attorney Holly Montague said now that the appeal is settled, the borough will consider whether to build roads or add covenants before selling lots. Best said the planning commission recommended building roads in advance, and the Planning Department is amenable. However, the assembly must make the final decision.

Montague said FOCL has 30 days to appeal. The borough has a year to finalize the plat. Before selling land, she said, it must determine which lots it has patent to, since the state has not yet conveyed all of the proposed subdivision.

The proposed plat has changed several times since the assembly approved sale of Tract A and four other lots. Montague said she will have to compare the final plat to the original proposal to determine whether the assembly must pass a new ordinance to authorize a sale.

Citing fears that anything said in open session might be used in future appeals, the Board of Adjustment debated FOCL's appeal behind closed doors. Navarre, Merkes, Chris Moss, Bill Popp and Pete Sprague voted for the closed session, while Paul Fischer, Jack Brown and Drew Scalzi opposed it.

Patrick O'Brien, who represents Cooper Landing, was absent.

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