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Kenai residents request land-use changes

Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Proposed changes to the allowed land uses in City of Kenai areas zoned as Rural Residential 1 would disallow banks, mobile home parks, hotels, restaurants, retail businesses and most uses aside from day-to-day living in a single-or-dual-family dwelling.

And that's just how the neighbors want it.

"This is not a sweeping change," said Kenai resident Mark Schrag. "It's just going back to what it was."

Schrag and others say the proposed changes would restore their neighborhoods to the original intent. Over the last two decades additional land uses have been allowed by the city under the RR1 designation, piece-by-piece.

An ordinance up for a work session after this Wednesday's city planning and zoning meeting would modify the land-use allowances for Rural Residential 1 neighborhoods.

The RR1 designation applies to two neighborhoods: the MAPS and Three Ws areas. Both would be changed.

MAPS is the area across the Kenai Spur Highway from Kenai Central High School, centering around Magic, Aliak and Princess streets and the Spur Highway. The three W's subdivision intersects with the Kenai Spur Highway near mile 5, and is bounded by Shell Drive and Devray Street.

Long-time MAPS resident Janine Espy spoke up in favor of the changes when the ordinance was introduced at Kenai's April 6 city council meeting.

"I'm so excited and hopeful as this ordinance is introduced to you tonight," she said.

Walt Ward has lived in the MAPS area since the 1980s when the area was designated RR1. He described his neighborhood as a "low noise, low traffic, low density" area.

"Both of these areas have a rural flair," he said at the meeting.

It isn't just the old-timers who support the ordinance.

Liz Leduc said she bought her house just a year ago after searching throughout the borough for the right home. Ultimately, she settled on RR1 in Kenai for the open space, dirt roads and ability to know her neighbors.

"The prime reason we chose our house in this neighborhood is because of the rural character," she said.

Although the ordinance was introduced and sent to planning and zoning for a work session, there was some strife about the process that brought it to the table.

Councilman Joe Moore questioned that lack of public process, because the ordinance was drafted by the residents with the help of a councilman rather than going through a traditional planning and zoning process with the city.

"I'm just not comfortable with this process," he said. "It seems to be a behind the scenes secret effort."

Councilman Brian Gabriel also voiced concern about the lack of public outreach.

But residents of the two neighborhoods testified that they had worked hard to include all of their neighbors in drafting the changes.

Alan Poynor, a Three Ws resident, said he had canvassed his neighborhood.

"Every last one of my neighbors that I contacted were in favor of it," he said.

Councilman Bob Molloy, who sponsored the ordinance and worked with the neighbors, said now that the residents had done the legwork it was time for the public process to begin.

Councilman Ryan Marquis agreed.

"I don't understand why introducing this ordinance can't be the start of this process," he said.

Marquis and councilman Terry Bookey also said they were happy that the process had allowed the public to tackle an issue that they felt dearly about.

"I like the fact the neighbors have the opportunity to work together, to work with their elected officials," Marquis said.

The council also decided to provide more notice than is customary for a modification of the land use table.

In a rezone, neighbors would be notified by postcard, so Porter asked the council via teleconference to consider doing just that.

The council unanimously amended the ordinance to include notification, and unanimously voted to postpone public hearing on the ordinance until May 18.

In the meantime, the ordinance will be up for discussion at a special work session after the April 27 planning and zoning meeting, and have a public hearing at a later meeting of that commission.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com.



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