Is compromise missing?: Kenai neighbors deserve chance to have say on development

Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is neighborhood participation in development that affects the neighborhood not a reasonable request? Not just a chance to respond after the fact, but a seat at the table from the beginning.

Anyone who follows the local news or drives on the Spur Highway through Kenai is probably aware of the area referred to as MAPS. It's hard to miss the hot pink signs and occasional walking sign that reads, "NO REZONE."

We are a fairly small neighborhood, geographically. We have strong feelings for this neighborhood we call home; some of us are going on four generations now. Can we become emotional? Darn right!

Over the last several months we have put in thousands of hours -- not to mention dollars -- not fighting development per se, but fighting for a meaningful say in how development takes place in our neighborhood.

From our mascot walking the Spur to others researching amazing amounts of information to one incredible job of writing up documents to time spent at meetings or contacting and interacting with people on all sides of the issue -- there is a middle, also -- a massive amount of time has been spent in already busy lives.

This fight is not about Dr. Todd Wortham's dental office. We have never said "no" to that. Only to how the office is permitted.

We are currently on our third proposal to accommodate him. And it's not even totally about the 14 lots now proposed to be rezoned along the highway, though the strong objections of some highway property owners to being unilaterally rezoned do and should loom large. It's about gaining a measure of assurance the city won't come after more of the neighborhood on a development whim.

Remember, we are a small area. Just because our neighborhood is close to new retail development, we shouldn't have to sacrifice our residential quality of life. Ask the four families who recently built homes right behind the lots in question if they don't have concerns about their investments.

Would we like things to stay the way they are? Mostly. Do we expect things to stay the way they are? No, but we deserve a meaningful say in the process of change.

My personal focus these many months has been to encourage an equitable solution to this recurring struggle. This isn't the first go-around.

A solution is possible if neither side insists on all or nothing, or even almost all or nothing.

Our neighborhood has come a long way toward a solution. Ask Dr. Wortham, I think he would agree.

Due to our massive effort, the city has begun to budge. They have put forth a revision of their Limited Commercial (LC) zone, but again it was drafted unilaterally. That revision, as well as a proposal from MAPS, is scheduled for a Planning and Zoning work session April 8. A positive step.

An equitable solution is possible but requires time. However, willing participation in good faith negotiations by both sides could cut the time needed to agree on a plan.

Unfortunately, on Wednesday this positive step could be washed away. The Kenai City Council has before it the adoption of Ordinance 2393-2009, which would go ahead and implement the original LC zone.

Why is this step being taken just a week before the above mentioned work session?

If you agree compromise should be given a chance, contact Mayor Pat Porter at 283-4348; or councilmen Rick Ross at 283-8497; Joe Moore at 283-4610 and Barry Eldridge at 283-7152; go to the city's Web site at www.ci.kenai.ak.us and send them an e-mail asking that Ordinance 2393-2009 be tabled; or come to the meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.

Give compromise a chance.

Mark Schrag is a resident of the MAPS neighborhood and has lived there for nearly 13 years.



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