Zoning change goes back to Kenai council

Posted: Thursday, May 05, 2011

Kenai's Planning and Zoning Commission took up the proposed changes to the city's land use table at its April 27 meeting, but decided not to schedule a public hearing on the ordinance that would make the changes.

That ordinance was introduced to the city council in April. That body gave it to Planning and Zoning for a work session and public hearing, and said it would come back in front of the council on May 18.

The agenda for the commission's meeting listed a discussion of the ordinance and a time to set a public hearing under new business. After the meeting, a work session was scheduled on the issue.

But when the commission convened that night, it amended the agenda so that the work session happened before the end of the meeting. And the agenda item for the commission to discuss the ordinance and schedule a public hearing was moved to after the work session.

Effectively, that change meant that the commission could base its discussion and choice of whether or not to schedule public hearing on the work session, which was not possible under the configuration that had been publicized.

The ordinance would change the land use table for the MAPS and Three Ws neighborhoods, which are zoned Rural Residential 1. A number of uses that are currently allowed with a conditional use permit would no longer be allowed, including operating a bank, hotel or other retail business. MAPS is the area across the Kenai Spur Highway from Kenai Central High School. The three W's subdivision intersects with the Kenai Spur Highway near Mile 5.

Kenai resident Mark Schrag, who has testified in support of the ordinance in the past, wouldn't comment on the meeting very specifically.

"They made a mess of it," he said.

City attorney Krista Stearns said she was not present at the meeting and didn't know the details of the change, and couldn't say whether or not the move was in violation of the state's Opening Meetings Act.

"I can't really issue or give you an opinion on that," Stearns said.

She did say that in many circumstances, it is allowable for an agenda to be changed at the beginning of the meeting.

When the commission had its discussion, the body decided not to follow the council's directive and schedule a public hearing.

Stearns said the ordinance will still return to the council for consideration on May 18.

"It will automatically come back on the agenda," she said.

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

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