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Personal services on tap for Kenai council: City to continue discussion of Limited Commercial zone; public records also on docket

Posted: Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The types of businesses that can be operated in Kenai's Limited Commercial zone will again be the topic of discussion at tonight's city council meeting.

The controversial city law regulating land use in the relatively new zone is being considered for modification in response to concerns expressed by some residents opposed to the rezoning of 14 parcels across from Kenai Central High School to Limited Commercial.

The primary focus of concern was the types of businesses permitted in the zone as "personal services."

A proposal to change personal services, restaurants, dormitories and boarding houses and greenhouses and tree nurseries from permitted uses to uses requiring conditional use permits, was introduced at the May 6 Kenai City Council meeting.

Councilman Barry Eldridge is scheduled to introduce a substitute ordinance tonight that would select specific types of personal services that would need conditional use permits.

Concurrently, City Manager Rick Koch said he has drafted a recommendation for changing the land use table for consideration by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

"I would like P and Z to be in the loop," Koch said.

Property owners in Kenai may get some good news tonight if the council agrees with a city administration suggestion to reduce the rate of property tax levy by 1/2 mill to 4 mills for the coming fiscal year.

Koch said the proposed reduction is in response to "good sales tax revenues" and additional revenues coming to the city by way of federal grants.

The council also is scheduled to consider changing the city code pertaining to the release of public records and regulations concerning public record inspections.

Ordinance 2396-2009 amending the code was introduced April 1, and following a number of questions by Councilman Bob Molloy and comments from others, the city administration has responded with a substitute ordinance, which is to be considered tonight.

According to Koch, the administration is in agreement with some of Molloy's suggestions, but not all.

"I suspect there will be more discussion on this," Koch said Tuesday.

The city budget for the coming year is slated for a public hearing, but in order to meet code requirements for advertising a public hearing, Koch said he will ask the council to schedule another public hearing for June 3 with action taken at that meeting.

The proposed operating expense budget includes a general fund of $12,544,597 for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending June 30, 2010. Also included are the water and sewer fund budget of $1,943,184 and the airport fund budget of $2,544,477.

The council also will consider a $175,000 appropriation ordinance for permitting and design of a water and sewer extension down Bridge Access Road, which could take the city services as far as Beaver Loop Road.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has made up to $4 million available for the extension, as long as the permitting and design of the project are completed in advance. Those costs are expected to be eligible for reimbursement once the project is obligated.

The council will be asked to award a contract to Kachemak Electric for replacing existing city street lights with LED fixtures.

Many of the city's lights already have been replaced with an energy savings of 51 percent, according to Koch. He also said the LEDs last "five to six times longer than high-pressure sodium or metal halide" lamps currently in use.

Because the city's recommended project to renovate Beaver Loop Road and add a separate pedestrian pathway the entire length from the Kenai Spur Highway to Bridge Access Road has ranked high on the State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) list, the city has been asked to formally show support of the project.

Under a proposed resolution, the city would assume ownership of the right-of-way and maintain the improved road and pathway.

Prior to the council meeting, which is scheduled to start at 7 p.m., the city council is slated to conduct a work session on the fuel flowage fees the city charges at the Kenai Municipal Airport and on the contested boundary of the Kenai River Special Management Area (KRSMA) where it runs through Kenai.

The state Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation believes the boundary is 3/4 of a mile downstream from the Warren Ames Bridge in Kenai. The council believes the boundary is 1/4 of a mile upstream of the bridge.

The work sessions are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.

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

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