Borough goes another round on gravel pits

Posted: Sunday, March 12, 2006

A yearlong effort to rewrite the way the borough’s code governing land-use permits is applied to gravel pits is about to take another turn.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Milli Martin, of Diamond Ridge, will introduce a substitute ordinance that she said would address concerns about water protection and ease the restrictions imposed by some provisions that could present difficulties for material-site operators.

The original ordinance, introduced in early January, aimed to remove certain language in the code that requires a complaining neighbor claiming pit operations have damaged their property or water supply to prove such damage is linked to the pit, and instead, simply require the borough’s planning department to investigate any and all complaints and relay notice of violations to appropriate state and federal agencies.

The proposed substitute also would include that shift of burden. But other provisions in the original ordinance, including limits on operating hours to reduce noise during the night, presented some practical problems for pit owners.

At a hearing in February, owners pointed out that many contracts for providing gravel to Department of Transportation road projects require late-night delivery when roadwork is less likely to disrupt traffic. The substitute, for instance, would insert a requirement for alternative back-up warning systems on trucks when material was to be hauled between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Other nighttime restrictions remain in the substitute, including a ban on the use of crushers and other gravel processing equipment between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Still other proposed changes address issues such as the size of berms, distances from water sources, clarifications on when gravel could be extracted in a water table, and the like.

The original ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing. It is likely the substitute, once introduced, will be scheduled for still more hearings.

The push to revise the borough’s code regarding material site permitting began around this time last year when assembly member Dan Chay, of Kenai, introduced a measure which also attempted several revisions, including shifting the burden of proof from complaining neighbors to pit operators, going so far as to require they show pit operations would not damage nearby property as a condition for obtaining a land-use permit. That measure ultimately failed early in February.

In other business, the assembly is expected to hold hearings and take final action on ordinances that would:

Authorize certain volunteers to serve on service area boards;

Adopt the National Incident Management System;

State nonobjection to state recognition of a volunteer fire department in Seldovia;

Revise the street naming and numbering system; and

Increase the E911 monthly telephone surcharge from 75 cents to $1.15.

The assembly also is expected to pass a resolution determining the amount local sources will provide to schools during fiscal year 2007.

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