Cemetery task force resurrected

Soldotna to include private parcels in search for land

Posted: Friday, July 13, 2007

New life has been breathed into the idea of a cemetery for the city of Soldotna.

Following numerous requests by Jim Fassler, who had served on the city's cemetery task force before it was idled last year, City Manager Tom Boedeker said Wednesday it was time to re-form the group.

Prior efforts to find a suitable piece of government-owned land failed and Boedeker said when the task force reconvenes, it should not be restricted to only looking at government land. The purchase of privately-owned land should also be considered, he said.

In a memo to the city council, Boedeker said, "If we are going to look at private land acquisition, then criteria need to be established to determine where we will look."

Criteria he listed include whether the land must be within city limits, if it must have an existing road leading to it, how large the parcel should be and how close it should be to densely populated areas.

Boedeker also named three city-owned parcels, each of which had limitations: a site on Kalifornsky Beach Road, currently being considered for a transitional housing facility; a 10-acre tract with limited road access at the end of Riverwatch Drive near a city sedimentation pond; and a site consisting of seven parcels at Karen Street Park, which would require removing the ski-snowboard hill and the skateboard park.

Councilwoman Betty Obendorf said she would like to see re-forming the cemetery task force as an action item on the council's next agenda.

The city council Wednesday also met with the Soldotna Planning and Zoning Commission in a work session to determine what action, if any, the city should take regarding residential complexes built in the city's commercial district.

The work session was scheduled in response to complaints about condominiums being built along the Sterling Highway voiced at the last Soldotna City Council meeting.

A few residents expressed their objections to the Timber Wolf condos, saying the development places too many people in too small an area.

Boedeker said the condos are permitted by city code and said he is aware of plans for other condo developments along the river nearby.

During the work session, Boedeker presented a number of "topics of concern about unrestricted residential development within the commercial district including conflicts between such commercial businesses as nightclubs playing loud music next door to a residential complex. The nightclub would have preferential treatment because the commercial district was initially created to serve the commercial enterprises in the city, according to Boedeker.

He also brought up potential traffic and safety issues that would arise from high density residential use within the busy commercial district.

"Maybe we need different ground rules if we are going to have high-density buildings in the commercial district," Boedeker said.

Obendorf said she has had "a lot of complaints" about how close to the Sterling Highway the Timber Wolf condominiums are being built.

"The setback now is supposed to be 10 feet," Boedeker said.

The condo building nearest the highway is 20 feet away.

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman John Czarnezki said having that many people accessing the Kenai River from a single lot, whether it's in the commercial district or the residential district "is a concern."

Commissioner Marilyn Kebschull said the city needs to look at single-family residential use in the commercial district.

"Single family would not be compatible within the zone," she said.

Obendorf wanted to know if the city has guidelines requiring aesthetically pleasing architecture.

"No, we don't," said Boedeker.

Public Works Director Steve Bonebrake told the commissioners and council members that in the commercial district, structures can be 48-feet tall, meaning the condos could actually be one story higher than they are. He also mentioned impacts the residential complex will have on the city's water and sewer infrastructure.

Kebschull suggested the city "might want to consider impact fees where a development is going to put a strain on the city."

The possibility of a moratorium on condo development was brought up, but Councilman Scott McLane said he believed simpler, quicker remedies, such as setbacks and landscaping requirements, exist.

Obendorf said people from whom she is hearing "are incensed."

"These are too close to the road," she said. "I just want to say we want things done orderly. We have a responsibility to the people we represent."

Upon receiving the OK from the council, Mayor Dave Carey said he would schedule meetings with Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor John Williams to discuss the possibility of partnering on projects that are beneficial to both government bodies, such as ongoing repairs to riverwalk infrastructure damaged by winter ice.

"The damage ... is mutually damaging to the city and the borough," said Carey. "We need to talk about working together with the borough."

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

Carey also said he planned to have the city administration formalize a proposal for raising the pay for council members, Planning and Zoning commissioners and members of the Parks and Recreation board.

If approved, council members' pay would go from $50 to $250 per month; Planning and Zoning commissioners' pay would double to $100 a month; and Parks and Recreation board members would begin receiving $50 a month. Currently they are not compensated.

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