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Kenai council OKs land purchase

Posted: Friday, April 18, 2008

The Kenai City Council decided to buy the land under the city's police and fire stations.

On a unanimous vote Wednesday, the council members approved a $260,000 appropriation from the general fund to purchase the 2.23 acres from the Kenai Municipal Airport.

The city's public safety building as well as a portion of Kenai City Hall sit on airport land, and a consultant hired to help orchestrate a long-range plan for the airport recommended the city either purchase the land or pay rent on it. City administration feels it is in the best interest of the city to buy the five lots outright.

"Historically the general fund has not paid rent," acting City Manager Larry Semmens told the council.

He said "the consultant was immovable" that the airport should charge rent because the city charges for police and fire protection services.

According to the proposed ordinance, rent would be equal to 8 percent of the property's value, which is appraised at $260,000.

The city also introduced, but did not take action on an ordinance donating five lots in the Mommsens Subdivision to the Amundsen Educational Center for the construction of houses.

According to Semmens, the Amundsen center is a non-profit organization that provides vocational education to people of rural Alaska, teaching them to construct houses.

Students will eventually build five houses on the lots, learning as they go, and put the houses on the market at the end of their training.

The land was acquired by the city through tax and special assessment foreclosures and the city council declared the properties are not needed for a public purpose.

At the end of Wednesday's council meeting, Councilman Barry Eldridge said while he is not opposed to the donation, the city should reconsider a request from Habitat for Humanity for a donation of land in Kenai on which to build houses.

Under the Amundsen proposal, the organization would pay taxes owed on the Mommsens property to the Kenai Peninsula Borough and pay the assessments owed to the city of Kenai.

Eldridge suggested offering Habitat for Humanity a similar deal.

An ordinance seeking to change city code to increase the size of sheds allowed in a lot's setback from 120 square feet to 200 square feet failed on a 4-3 vote. The proposed ordinance also sought to change the building permit requirement for accessory structures similarly.

Although the ordinance proposed by Councilman Mike Boyle did not alter height limits of sheds as did a previous version of his proposal, councilmen Eldridge and Rick Ross said they would not support the change because of the height issue and because they felt building permits should be required for large sheds.

In the originally proposed ordinance, sheds up to 16 feet tall were to be considered as one story in height. That definition was removed from the substitute ordinance offered Wednesday.

Boyle said he believed if people are allowed to have a larger shed in their yard, "their inclination to have Conexes goes down."

He later said action intended to rid the central commercial or residential zones of the city of Conex boxes "got confused" with the issue of storage sheds.

"It might be better to separate them and deal only with Conexes," Boyle said.

In other action, the council approved amending a lease for city property on Trading Bay Drive to allow for additional parking at the Kenai Courthouse.

Also approved was a sublease of property at the corner of the Kenai Spur Highway and Main Street Loop to Dwight Davis, who plans to open a mobile, food-to-go barbecue restaurant. Davis told the council the new eatery would be open by the middle of May.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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