The Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted against allowing commercial development on Lawton Acres at Wednesday's hearing.
Lawton Acres is a 16.49-acre parcel of land owned by the city that sits between the Kenai Spur Highway and Lawton Drive. The land had been zoned for conservation purposes, which prevents most development on the property.
Commissioner Barry El-dridge said in a telephone interview that limited commercial zones are supposed to help transition from commercial zones into residential zones.
The city council decided to consider rezoning part of it to allow some development on the property after Kenai business owners and residents Nate and Gina Kiel asked the city about building their business at the location. They have been looking for a new spot for Halcyon Spalon, a day spa, and thought this was an ideal location, Gina Keil said.
Marilyn Kebschull, city planner for the city of Kenai, recommended that the land be rezoned as a limited commercial zone.
"I feel that it meets the criteria of the zoning code in the comprehensive plan," Kebschull said.
The city council referred the issue to the planning and zoning commission, which held a public hearing and voted on the matter.
Now there is a 15-day appeal period, and the council still has the authority to go forward with an ordinance.
Wednesday evening's hearing was packed with most people testifying in opposition to rezoning the property.
"We don't think that is the right place," said Kenai resident William Nelson.
He said this area was set aside as a conservation zone and should be kept that way.
Lawton Drive resident Roy Wells spoke in opposition to developing the land but said he supports business development in Kenai. He said Kenai needs to focus on filling empty buildings and concentrate development around a city center.
Nate Keil spoke in favor of rezoning the property.
"It's time to diversify our economy," Kiel said, adding it would bring more tax revenue into the city.
Gina Kiel said they have no plans to appeal the decision. She said they are looking for a different place to build.
"Maybe just being out there somebody will come up with a better idea," she said.
Barry Eldridge, also a commissioner, said the commission had hoped to use this as a test ground for a limited commercial zone, but the testimony convinced him this was not the right time to try it.
Commissioner Nelson Amen said at the beginning of the evening he was leaning toward voting to rezone the property, but the public testimony changed his mind.
"I think the public testimony is correct," he said.
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