Cemetery gets stipulations: Burials must begin within 5 years

Posted: Friday, February 26, 2010

The Soldotna City Council approved an ordinance purchasing 10 acres from the Kenai Peninsula Borough on W est Redoubt for use as a cemetery for $2 at its meeting Wednesday night.

"These are the two dollars a council member from Homer gave me so it actually didn't cost us anything," said Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche with a smile, holding up two crisp bucks.

However, stipulations in the borough's ordinance place deed restrictions on the parcel for use as a cemetery only and burials must begin within five years. If this condition is broken, the borough reserves a right of reentry, or to resume possession of the lot.

Council member Dale Bagley seemed uncomfortable with the five-year time limit for burials. He asked if the borough would take the land back if for some reason Soldotna does not have a burial.

Soldotna City Manager Larry Semmens assured him that would not be a problem.

"Personally I think there's an extremely low risk here," he said. "I think there will be someone buried within five years so I don't think we have to be too concerned about that."

Marcus Mueller, Kenai Peninsula Borough Land Manager, said that the borough recognizes it might take some time to develop the property.

"There's no expectation all of this property will be developed overnight," he said, calling it a "long-term cemetery."

Other council members expressed concern about the requirements because the city's plan for the 17-acre cemetery includes a gazebo and walking trails.

Council member Dr. Nels Anderson questioned if a memorial garden would be considered a use for a cemetery.

"Is that going to break the covenant and allow that to be taken back by the borough?" he asked.

Micciche said that it's very clear what happens on a cemetery property.

"Could we put a restaurant in there? No," he said. "I think it's a commonsense approach on what you would think of a cemetery."

Council member Peggy Mullen said she was concerned that a gazebo would not fall under the borough's definition of a cemetery either. She wouldn't want the borough to micro-manage the usage, she said.

"I can't think of a cemetery that doesn't have a place for a service," Micciche said. "I think we're kind of worried about things we don't need to worry about."

The Kenai Peninsula Borough approved an ordinance at their meeting a week ago Tuesday to sell the land below market value to Soldotna, defeating a substitute ordinance that would have split the sale of the land into two chunks. The 10 acres have been assessed at $413,800 and the original version of the borough ordinance would have authorized the assembly to sell the land to the city for $55,000. A failed amendment to the ordinance made at the Feb. 2 meeting proposed selling the land for $1.

Soldotna's cemetery issue, or lack thereof, has been a topic of contention for nearly a decade, causing local politicians to seek public office on that issue alone last fall. Recently the discussion centered around the financial sale of the parcel in terms of public use against the borough's financial benefit.

Other council action:

The council introduced an ordinance establishing a permitting process for wind turbines in the city. A public hearting is set for March 10.

The council introduced an ordinance accepting a grant of stimulus funds from the state to begin work on a "green parking lot" at the Ralph Soberg House in conjunction with the Kenai Watershed Forum.

The council passed an ordinance authorizing the design of a traffic light at the Sterling Highway and Birch Street.

The council passed a resolution authorizing a donation of $2,500 to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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