Almost a year ago, the city of Kenai put up for sale 68 undeveloped residential lots in the Inlet Woods Subdivision, just north of Redoubt Avenue, and stood by as none of them sold.
But in recent months, perhaps spurred by optimism about improved prospects in the oil patch, 53 lots at the back of Inlet Woods were requested to be sold as a block by home builder Clint Hall.
Appraised at $180,000, the bids for the lots will be opened May 11. As instigator of the sale, Hall has the right to match the highest bid if it is not his.
At Wednesday night's meeting, the Kenai City Council discussed selling 62 more lots in the front half of the subdivision for a negotiated cash price, once again to Hall.
While excited by the prospect of seeing a return on the city's investment in Inlet Woods, some council members were worried that covenants in place in the subdivision would be changed if one person became the majority land owner there.
Some covenants in place there now dictate there be no satellite dishes and that one-story homes be at least 1,200 square feet, and two-story homes at least 1,400 square feet.
"I would hate to see the covenants changed," council member Jim Bookey said. "I want to ensure existing constituents aren't affected by new covenants by a new majority owner.
"We can't drop the ball and let them do what they darn well please with that subdivision."
Council member Duane Bannock was adamant that the city has no place in dictating covenants to private homeowners.
"We have no place dabbling in covenants," he said.
He said that is the buyer's business, not the sellers'.
Council member Joe Moore, who is one of the few residents living in the largely undeveloped Inlet Woods, indicated the specter of losing covenants has prompted one of his neighbors to put his house up for sale.
Council member Pat Porter said everyone on the council knew covenants would go with the sale of the property, but said the city has "every obligation" to make sure they stay in place.
"Homeowners need an association and need to enforce their covenants," she said.
City Attorney Cary Graves said he couldn't speak with certainty without researching the law, but he said the city might be able to attach deed restrictions to the sale, barring a developer from affecting the neighborhood covenants. He said it could be designed to grant voting privileges to homeowners once they buy the property from the developer.
In other news from the council meeting:
n A resolution was passed committing the council to spend money in the future doing seasonal cleaning on the proposed Bridge Access Road pedestrian and bike path.
Though it passed unanimously, some council members expressed concern over how the trail would be built.
"Paths away from the highway that are 3 years old can be described as 'poor,' while those attached to the highway are excellent," Bannock said.
He said if paths are built on the same road bed as a highway, they seem to stand up to use better and last longer.
"My opposition to bike paths -- despite them giving you a warm feeling -- is that they cannot be built up to standards," he said. "Bike paths are the biggest amount of money the state wastes."
Moore said he was concerned about what kind of path the state will build and asked if there was some way to make sure it is of good quality.
City Manager Rick Ross said it could be addressed in the design phase.
Along those lines, there will be another informal community meeting about the path May 15 at 7 p.m. in city hall.
n Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association representative Gary Fandrei made the same presentation he did to the Soldotna City Council a week before, seeking a resolution in support of CIAA's request for federal matching funds for its operations. Mayor John Williams asked that Fandrei work with City Clerk Carol Freas on drafting one.
"This council has always supported the fisheries," Williams said.
CIAA works to study and enhance fisheries in Cook Inlet and around to Seward. It is funded by a tax on commercial fishing, but consecutive poor years have reduced its income.
n The council approved an increase to how much the city manager can transfer between accounts within a fund from less than $1,000 to less than $2,500.
"This speaks to the quality of our administration," Williams said. "At one point, council would not allow a city manager to spend 10 cents."
n A three-year contract was awarded to the Brown Agency for insurance brokerage services for the city at $11,000 a year.
n A resolution was approved supporting the Education Funding Task Force's recommendation for the Alaska Legislature to spend more on schools.
n Airport Manager Becky Cronkhite said the World War II bombers that visited Kenai from the Collings Foundation last summer will be back this summer, though an exact date has not been set. She said the foundation does not schedule visits more than six weeks in advance, due to maintenance concerns.
n Public Works Director and Harbor Master Keith Kornelis reported the city dock should be open by mid-May.
n Graves reported his office is in negotiation with the state to take over collection of traffic fines and electronically attach liens to a violator's Alaska Permanent Fund dividend if they do not pay in a timely manner.
The next regular city council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 2.
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