Kenai questions who has legal standing to fight zoning rulings

Up for appeal

Posted: Friday, February 17, 2006

Access to city government was at the core of a number of ordinances debated by the Kenai City Council on Wednesday night.

The most hotly contested of the proposed statutes specifies what zoning issues can be appealed to the city’s Board of Adjustments and who has legal standing — or who is entitled — to file the appeals.

A half dozen citizens expressed opposition to the proposed ordinance, saying it excessively restricts who may appeal Planning and Zoning Commission decisions and precludes non owners of property from filing appeals.

The proposed ordinance states a person who has standing to file an appeal — the aggrieved person — must either own the property that is subject to the Planning and Zoning action, own property within 300 feet of the affected property or own property outside the 300-foot zone and be able to show an adverse effect on the use, value or enjoyment of his or her property.

Having an interest in a zoning decision that is no different from that of the general public “is not sufficient to make a person aggrieved,” according to the proposal.

Referring to an incident in late 2004 when a Washington state developer announced plans to put in a recreational vehicle park near the VIP Subdivision, Gerald Brookman, who lives in the VIP Subdivision, said, “My read is I would not be directly affected enough to have legal standing ... in the motorhome park issue last year.”

Kenai city Attorney Cary Graves said, “My reading (of the proposed ordinance) is you would have had legal standing ... if you could have shown an effect on the value of your property.”

Kenai attorney Joe Ray Skrha also expressed opposition to the change and said, “Three hundred feet is only three lots over.”

Skrha said people are not only aggrieved in terms of money, but also in terms of “quality of life.”

“What does owning land have to do with any of this?” asked Curt Wilcox, who said he resides on Beaver Loop.

“What’s wrong with just living in Kenai?” he asked.

Wilcox said the proposed ordinance suggests if people do not own property, they do not have a voice in the community.

Laura Siebert, who also lives on Beaver Loop, said she opposes the change, too, and said the city already has a good checks and balances system in place.

Council member Robert Molloy suggested the council delay action on the ordinance until the Kenai Bar Association has time to go over the proposal with the city attorney and legally define who the aggrieved persons should be.

The council agreed to postpone action until the second meeting in March.

Council member Mike Boyle also sought to delay action on an ordinance that would allow for changing the time of council meetings from 7 p.m. to some other time, presumably earlier.

“Changing to 6:30 or even 6 (p.m.) cuts into people’s dinner time, and we should be making it easier for people to come to meetings and participate,” Boyle said.

The ordinance to change the time of meetings to a time set by resolution of the council passed, however, with only Boyle and Molloy voting against it.

The council did not set a new time for meetings.

The group unanimously approved allowing members of city commissions, committees and boards to have up to three excused absences a year.

The body of the ordinance cites the difficulty the city has in recruiting and retaining committed citizens to serve on its boards and commissions, and states allowing excused absences for good causes would make it easier to retain qualified members.

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