Eyes to the future: Open house, work session slated for Envision Soldotna plan

Posted: Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The City of Soldotna is hosting a final workshop to solicit public input for its comprehensive plan -- Envision Soldotna 2030 -- this Thursday.

The city will host an open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to showcase the draft plan to residents. A work session will follow the open house to discuss the plan topic by topic. Some of these include: economic development, creating a downtown area, land usage and transportation infrastructure, among other things.

"We wanted a vision for Soldonta in the next 20 years," City Planner Stephanie Queen said of the draft created by Kevin Waring Associates consulting firm. The borough and the city split the cost of $95,000.

Queen said that, based on the comprehensive plan, the city wants to encourage a medical district in Soldotna. In addition to attracting health industries, she said that the city is looking to post signs to mark the area itself.

"We want people to know they're there," she said.

The city planner believes that encouraging growth in the medical sector will serve the aging population, and create high-tech jobs that will attract younger people.

Queen said that the city plans to continue building parks and other recreational activities to attract younger families, for example Soldotna Creek Park.

"It's a focal point for the community," she said.

Queen plans to guide city development to create one or two areas that will serve as the city's downtown. The increased foot traffic will aid businesses located in the district, she said.

"This will include centers to socialize and shop," she said.

She said that the Soldotna has heard mixed reviews of its walkability. The planner said that city has looked into installing more stoplights.

"There are not a lot of places to cross the highway safely," she said.

Queen said that the draft, which the city manager and engineer have yet to incorporate into their planning, advises the city to evaluate land usage around the Kenai River as well.

The city planner said that industrial sectors have developed along the river. She wants to check the regulations and ensure that the Kenai is adequately protected. Queen said that she wants to protect against bank erosion that results from foot traffic as well.

"There's a high density of people on the bank," she said.

Queen hopes that coffee shops will develop along the river, along with other businesses that utilize the view.

"I'm looking for ways to encourage businesses to embrace the Kenai," she said.

The city planner hopes to find incentives to bring borough businesses into Soldotna. Queen believes that the borough's lower tax rates and lax regulations keep many businesses outside Soldotna city limits. The city council would handle the task though, she said.

The study hinted at plans to annex populated areas outside of the city to add tax revenues. Queen said that there are no current plans to incorporate subdivisions. The council had passed an ordinance to annex adjacent areas in years past, only to have it vetoed by the mayor at the time, Dave Carey.

"The issue will come up again," she said.

Tony Cella can be reached at tony.cella@peninsulaclarion.com.

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