City of Kenai rezone frozen for now

Posted: Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A move to rezone land across from Kenai Central High School to allow limited commercial development has been put on ice for now.

An Anchorage law firm has confirmed the legality of a petition for a referendum vote of the people possibly to overturn the Kenai City Council's decision to change 14 parcels to Limited Commercial.

Over protests from residents in the neighboring community, Ordinance 2393-2009 was approved April 1, changing about 22 acres north of the Kenai Spur Highway from Rural Residential 1 and Conservation to Limited Commercial. The vote was 4-3.

Following the decision, residents in the MAPS Subdivision -- named for streets bordering the neighborhood: Magic Avenue, Aliak Drive, Princess Street and the Spur Highway -- began gathering the required 395 signatures needed on a petition to repeal the ordinance by referendum vote.

The signatures were verified as being from registered voters within the city of Kenai and the referendum petition was certified last week by City Clerk Carol Freas.

The petition was sent to Walker and Levesque attorneys at law in Anchorage who concluded "that the referendum petition meets the legal requirements," and should be accepted.

In a letter to Freas, the lawyers state the city charter provides the ordinance "shall not go into effect until the petition is finally found to be illegal and/or sufficient, or, in case the petition is found to be legal and sufficient, until the voters approve the ordinance."

The lawyers concluded that the application for referendum petition of city ordinance 2393-2009 "is sufficient as to all applicable legal requirements and should be accepted by the city clerk."

The referendum will go before the voters in the October municipal elections.

The controversy began late last year when Kenai dentist Dr. Todd Wortham applied to have a vacant 2.97-acre parcel across from KCHS rezoned so he could build a new professional building for his dental practice. The practice currently is in rented space in the Trading Bay center across from the Kenai Courthouse.

Rather than rezone only one parcel, the city council asked City Manager Rick Koch to compile a more comprehensive list of parcels along the highway corridor to be rezoned to allow for more small-scale commercial development.

The comprehensive list includes 13 parcels west of McCollum Drive zoned Rural Residential 1, and one city-owned parcel zoned Conservation along a creek bordering the new Wal-Mart property.

Koch said Friday, it is his understanding the certified referendum petition "freezes everything" until the city elections.

Wortham was out of the country and unavailable for comment last week.

Notice of certification of the petition was sent to MAPS residents Patricia Falkenberg and Kenai attorney Charles Winegarden.

On Friday, Falkenberg said the residents "are very pleased with the efforts ...."

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



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