Not dead yet: Multiple cemetery sites on council's agenda

Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Perseverance seems to be the way of the Soldotna City Council, at least when it comes to getting the cemetery site it wants.

Although the council voted against buying several pieces of private land known as the Knight Drive parcels for a city cemetery less than a month ago, the proposal is once again on the council's agenda tonight.

At its April 22 meeting, the Knight Drive site failed on a 3-2 vote. Four affirmative votes were needed to pass.

At that time, Councilman Scott McLane declared a conflict of interest and abstained from voting. He said one of the parcels under consideration was donated to the Soldotna Church of God by McLane's family with a deed restriction that would entitle the family to a percentage of the proceeds should the property be sold for a non-church use.

On Monday, McLane said, "I have divested my interest, however small it was. I conveyed it to another party."

He also said he believes the Knight Drive site to be the best choice for a city cemetery, presumably making his the deciding fourth affirmative vote.

The resolution, being introduced by Councilman Shea Hutchings, has been placed on the agenda immediately following a proposed resolution to be introduced by Councilman Shane Horan asking that a site known as the Redoubt Avenue property be reconsidered. The Redoubt site reportedly has the support of only Horan and Councilwoman Betty Obendorf.

Facing opposition from property owners in the neighboring Mooring by the River Subdivision, the council previously rejected the Redoubt site as well. The city already owns the 10-acre parcel, which was given to the city by the Kenai Peninsula Borough for use as a storm water sedimentation basin.

One of the objections to the Redoubt property was that it is within 500 yards of a school. However, much of the Knight property is within 500 yards of Soldotna High School.

In April, cemetery committee member Nancy Eoff said, "We had to swallow that part and hope it would be figured out" by the council.

Mooring by the River homeowners have expressed fear that a cemetery at the Redoubt site would lower their property values. They have not expressed the same fear about a sedimentation pond being there.

In a letter to the city from Anchorage attorney Thomas Amodio, on behalf of Mooring by the River residents Jay and Paula Rohloff, the lawyer states, "The intent of the sedimentation basin was 'to improve the water quality of the storm water runoff prior to discharge into the Kenai River,'" citing minutes from a borough plat committee meeting.

Amodio said the intended use is one of "several legal impediments that will significantly hinder" use of the Redoubt property as a cemetery.

Jay Rohloff was a member of the Unified Community Memorial Park Committee appointed by Mayor Peter Micciche, which favored the Knight Drive parcels.

Before tonight's council meeting, the council will meet at 5:30 p.m. as the Committee of the Whole to discuss whether the city should transition from being a general law, first-class municipality to a home rule municipality.

City Manager Larry Semmens said "one of the big issues" about not being a home rule city is that Soldotna may not choose what goods can or cannot be taxed when sold. The city may only tax items taxed by the borough or seek the borough's permission to do otherwise.

The Committee of the Whole also is scheduled to discuss whether to seek voter approval for city officials to be exempt from filing public official financial disclosure statements, required by the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

On its regular council meeting consent agenda, an ordinance is to be introduced appropriating $325,000 to purchase land next to the Soldotna public library for a planned library expansion. Semmens said the city's first offer on the land was rejected, but the owner has verbally agreed to the $325,000 appraised price offer.

The council also is scheduled to approve a design for the Soldotna Creek Park and to give direction to Semmens regarding a cemetery site, assuming one of the resolutions passes.

The council meeting is slated to begin at 6:30 p.m.

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

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