The Soldotna city clerk last week rejected a ballot initiative petition to ask voters if a city cemetery should be developed on city-owned land near the west end of Redoubt Avenue.
Sponsored by former Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor and Redoubt Realty sales agent Dale Bagley, the petition proposes an ordinance establishing the property known as Crystalline Subdivision Tract 1 as "the new location for the city of Soldotna Memorial Park."
An alternate sponsor listed on the petition is Billie Gillilan, who also is an alternate member of the Soldotna Memorial Park Task Force, that recommended the Redoubt Avenue property as its number one choice for a cemetery.
The city council, instead selected the task force's third choice a large tract of city-owned land off the east end of the Soldotna Municipal Airport.
At the council meeting last Wednesday, Diane Hodges, who has lived in the area of the airport property all her life, said wildlife, especially moose and brown bears, frequent the area all year.
"All the animals use a spring pond there," Hodges said. "It's open year-round."
Hodges testified at an earlier Soldotna council meeting that long-time residents of the neighborhood refer to the city property as "brown bear alley" because of the number of bears traversing the wooded tract on their way to the Kenai River for salmon.
She said the land would not be a safe, peaceful spot for a cemetery.
After receiving much opposition to the Redoubt Avenue site from residents of neighboring Mooring by the River Subdivision, the city council stopped considering the task force's number-one choice and opted for the airport property.
On Feb. 13, Bagley submitted the initiative petition signed by himself, Gillilan and 10 others, including task force member Katherine Parker.
City Clerk Teresa Fahning, on Feb. 20, rejected the petition "based on legal advice."
The basis of the rejection is that the petition requests an appropriation of a specific piece of real property owned by the city for a specific purpose.
In her rejection letter, Fahning directed the petition filers to Alaska Constitution Article XI, which states in part, "The initiative shall not be used to dedicate revenues, make or repeal appropriations ..." and to title 29 of Alaska Statutes, which does not extend initiative powers to matters restricted under Article XI.
In addition to appropriating city land for use as a cemetery, the ordinance proposed in the initiative seeks to appropriate money for a ground and soil analysis of the preferred site.
In stating that the initiative sponsors have the right to challenge the rejection, Fahning offered alternate "advisory vote" language for the proposed ordinance, which would bring it into compliance with Alaska law.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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