Kenai to overhaul zoning codes

Posted: Wednesday, June 21, 2000

In its ongoing effort to streamline the municipal code, the city of Kenai will address changes to most of the planning and zoning laws at tonight's city council meeting.

The code revisions, which were done by the administration over the past year, include almost every zoning and building question.

Many of the changes were simply housekeeping, said City Attorney Cary Graves.

"There were items that were inconsistent with other code sections and items that were not followed in a number of years because they were outdated," he said.

Some of the changes proposed include:

In cases of subdividing a parcel of land, a preliminary plat must be submitted to the city first rather than the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The change was recommended because notification of the borough first has not been done in the past;

The fee of 50 cents for preliminary plats has been eliminated, as fees have not been collected in the past. City planning administrator Marilyn Kebschull said most preliminary plats are one page long and the time and paper work to process a 50-cent fee was not worth it;

The code revisions also bar developers with more than one adjacent lot from building a structure across a property line. There is an exception for townhouses or commercial properties that can meet the fire code, Kebschull said. The regulation would bar a property owner from building a house or garage that straddles the property line, even if both lots are owned by the same person;

Landowners now are allowed to legally sell small, nonconforming lots. Kebschull said there are many lots like this in Old Town Kenai, but the city has no way of knowing if lots are being sold. She said a nonconforming lot is one that doesn't meet current lot size requirements in its zone;

The city eliminated the requirement for developers of townhouses and zero lot line structures to file a $500 fee with their homeowners' association. She said it may be required by state law, but the city does not want any legal responsibility to enforce it. The city also removed the requirement that developers file their bylaws with the city for review and approval;

People who want to build a second single-family structure in their back yard will be able to. Kebschull said many people want their elderly parents close to them but with the ability to maintain their own independence, so a "mother-in-law house" is allowed, as long as lot coverage and setback requirements are met. Previously, such a structure would require as much land as if it were on a lot of its own;

Setback requirements for accessory structures on a lot have been clarified. Detached accessory buildings, such as sheds, needing a building permit -- that is, those over 120 square feet -- must still meet setback requirements, but those smaller can now be as close as three feet to a property line;

Recreational vehicles also are addressed in the code revisions. Currently, an RV may be used for temporary living purposes for 30 days anywhere in the city. But the change would allow one to be in place during the entire construction season on a construction site, from April 1 to Oct. 1;

A passage on manufactured and modular homes was added to the section about mobile homes, exempting them from mobile home regulations. Mobile homes, those built on a chassis, are barred from within city limits. Modular and manufactured homes were defined as those wider than 16 feet and with roofing and siding common to residential construction, as described by the federal Depart-ment of Housing and Urban Development;

Parking space requirements for nonresidential lots also was addressed, increasing the number needed based on anticipated visitation. Kebschull also said use of parking spaces as storage was better defined;

The administration also is recommending the appeals period for Planning and Zoning Commission decisions be shortened from 30 days to 15.

All these proposed changes and more will be addressed at the Kenai City Council meeting at 7 p.m. in city hall.

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