An attempt at rezoning approximately 241 acres in the middle of Kenai into the newly created Central Mixed Use Zone hit a snag Wednesday night and has been kicked back to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission for more work.
The city council was poised to approve an ordinance moving 329 parcels from the General Commercial, Central Commercial, Light Industrial and Suburban Residential zones into the new mixed use zone, but instead sent the matter back to planners to reconsider permitted uses within the zone.
The new zone, which was approved last fall, is intended to create a centrally located, pedestrian friendly area for shopping, personal and professional services, entertainment and restaurants to be mixed in with residential uses.
The area in the new zone, as proposed, is bounded by Upland Avenue alongside historic Old Town to the west and the Kenai River bluff to the south. The east boundary is a zigzag line just downriver from Pacific Star Seafoods to Bridge Access Road, behind AIH Hardware and between 3 Bears and the bowling alley, and behind Safeway and Home Depot up to Airport Way.
From the airport, the line follows North Willow Street to Main Street Loop and behind businesses on the Kenai Spur Highway back to Old Town. A map is available at City Hall.
Kenai city planner Marilyn Kebschull told the council the Central Mixed Use Zone had been recommended in the 2003 comprehensive plan as an area with a mixture of residential and commercial properties.
One resident whose home is on Mission Avenue along the Kenai River bluff said he is opposed to having his property rezoned and said he had not received notice of the impending change.
Kebschull said all owners of property within the new zone were notified by mail, even though the city code does not require it. She said her department used the owner information provided by the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Additionally, she said the Planning and Zoning Commission conducted two work sessions and a public hearing about the proposed change, for which notices were published in the newspaper and posted at City Hall, the post office and the Kenai Courthouse.
Bob Peters, who said he has lived in his house for 30 years, said, “I’m not real thrilled with these new changes.
“Now, if I want to build a garage, I have to go to Planning and Zoning to get a variance. I’m not real excited about that,” he said.
Previously, Peters’ property was in the Central Commercial Zone in which residences from single-family to seven- or more-family dwellings were permitted. In the new zone, he would need to apply for a conditional use permit if he wants to increase the square footage of his residence.
He said he has no plans to build, but he does not like the requirement that he needs to ask permission to make changes on his own land.
On Friday, Kebschull said, “I don’t think people in the Central Commercial Zone realize they are not protected.
“If someone wants to come in and build a gas station next door, they can,” she said.
Uses that will no longer be allowed in the area include wholesale businesses, warehouses, cemeteries and gravel pits.
Kebschull said she believes the recommendation, as presented to the city council Wednesday night, “had limited impact and fulfilled the intent of the (newly created) zone.”
She expects to schedule the matter as a work session topic for the Planning and Zoning Commission at its April 25 meeting.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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