A controversial proposed development was given the go-ahead Monday against the protest of neighboring homeowners.
In a unanimous vote Monday, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Adjustment denied all but one point of appeal on plans for the development of Zephyr Fields Subdivision. The board remanded the plat back to the planning commission for further investigation of the length of one street, but approved the rest of the plat.
Homeowners in the Poppy Woods Subdivision, which sits adjacent to builder Clint Hall's proposed Zephyr Fields development, brought the appeal before the board after their opinions were overruled by the plat committee and planning commission, both of which approved Hall's plans.
"We're not trying to prevent Mr. Hall from building," said Poppy Woods resident Linda Price. "We just would like him to develop responsibly."
The residents, represented by attorney Krista Stearns, argued that the borough subdivision code was not followed properly and that the planning commission allowed exceptions and variations to the code without adequate reason. They particularly worried that the new development would have an adverse effect on quality of life because extending roads could create arterial streets and increase traffic through their small neighborhood.
Hall, who was named as the appellee in the case, did not file the proper papers to speak at the hearing.
Planning commission staff offered a briefing on their decision-making process, and Cliff Baker of Integrity Surveys, the planning and design company for the project, spoke in support of Hall.
Baker listed a number of design variations to alleviate residents' concerns, but maintained that the planning commission followed all proper procedures and noted all relevant concerns.
He asked the board members to remember that they were responsible for looking out for the interests of all borough residents, "not just a pocket of people who don't want something in their back yards."
The hearing Monday lasted nearly three hours, with about 25 members of the public attending to listen. Just before 5 p.m., the board voted against extending deliberation for a week, instead retiring into executive session to discuss the case.
Just before 7 p.m., the meeting reopened to the public and board members cast their votes. Bill Popp moved to remand the plat to the planning commission regarding a proposed dead end street, but deny all other points of appeal. All other board members in attendance voted in favor of the motion. A written explanation of the decision will be filed within 30 days.
Hall said he thought the hearing went well.
"I have never been to one like that before. I thought the appeals board did a pretty good job staying to the issue. I was more impressed with them than I would have expected to be," he said. "I think they did exactly what they were called to do."
Stearns, however, said the decision was disappointing.
"From our perspective, it's a small bone to throw at us," Stearns said, referring to the one remanded point of appeal. "It's not much of a comfort."
She added that the ruling did not address the residents' concerns about a traffic increase.
Mistral Street is the proposed dead end street measuring more than 1,000 feet in length. The dispute over the street arises from its classification.
Current subdivision code maintains that cul-de-sacs are not allowed to be more than 1,000 feet long. The planning commission deemed the street a variance, calling it an "off-set bulb" that could potentially be continued onto adjacent property at a later date.
Residents argued that the code should not be interpreted in terms of what may happen in the future.
"The appellants had some good points about block length and about code, interpretations and exceptions," Hall said. "I think they were addressed."
The board's decision means that the planning commission will most likely have to go back and collect more evidence and testimony on the length of the street before deciding whether to deem the street an off-set bulb or a cul-de-sac.
Hall said that if all goes well, the process will slow the plat down, but necessary changes will be made and development will begin. He admitted that he suspects the residents will continue to appeal, though.
The residents have the option of appealing the board's decision before the Superior Court, a path they will be considering over the next few weeks, Stearns said. Residents have 30 days from the date of the board's written decision to file an appeal. If the residents choose to appeal, the process will likely begin before the planning commission reconsiders the plan.
Seven board members were in attendance at the meeting. Paul Fischer was out of town and excused from the meeting. Pete Sprague removed himself from the proceeding because he had been involved in the issue prior to the hearing.
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