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Kenai in mood to improve

Council considering park expansion, convention center, rezone

Posted: Monday, February 20, 2006

Residents and visitors will soon see some civic improvements that add to their Kenai experience come rain or come shine.

The Kenai City Council on Wednesday gave its collective nod of approval to the Parks and Recreation Department for improvements to Municipal Park at the end of South Forest Drive and to the acting city manager to explore leasing a convention center in town.

Parks and Rec Director Bob Frates received the green light to begin developing bid specifications for improving the park, including installing two primary picnic shelters and three to five mini shelters, creating 11 picnic sites, converting roads to 10-foot wide multi-use trails, installing turf areas and adding parking areas within the park.

The larger shelters will be 24 feet by 40 feet and 24 feet by 22 feet.

The project also will include adding new picnic tables, signs, benches and barbecue grills.

Council members OK’d having the city administration explore the possibility of leasing the former Carrs grocery store space in the Kenai Mall for use from time to time as an event or conference center.

The Kenai Chamber of Commerce, the Kenai Economic Development Strategy Action Team and the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau have said the city is in need of a convention center that could seat up to 400 people. Currently the largest facilities in Kenai seat only 200.

A letter from the convention and visitors bureau lists a number of alterations the building would need, including larger restrooms, a redesign of loading dock doors to allow ground access, a commercial kitchen, a remodeled entrance and wiring upgrade for current-day technology.

Acting city manager Chuck Kopp told the council it is unlikely the conference center would be self-sustaining and said it would require additional city staffing. He is to discuss a potential lease with building owners.

In other council business, a letter to Sen. Tom Wagoner was approved requesting additional street lights along the Kenai Spur Highway between mileposts 4 and 8, and between 12 and 14.

The lights are needed to enhance community safety, particularly when a new soccer field complex goes in near Mile 12, the letter states.

The council also approved rezoning 53 acres along the Spur Highway at Mile 6 from rural residential to limited commercial, a zone that allows low to medium-volume business and mixed residential use.

The rationale behind the rezone is to avoid having the area along the highway remain vacant and rundown due to limited development.

Tom Rhyner, a property owner who lives near the rezoned area, objected, saying changing the area to commercial would add too much business traffic across a bike path and onto a 55 mph highway.

All council members except Mike Boyle voted in favor of the rezone.

The council unanimously rejected a lease application by Mark Lockwood to build warehouse-storage buildings on a parcel of land in the Gusty Subdivision along the Spur Highway north of the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

Saying the city did not have sufficient funding available for a requested paving project on Angler Drive, Kopp recommended the city council not go forward with the proposed paving project at this time.

A resolution that would have set a public hearing on the project was rejected unanimously.



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