Controversial Cooper Landing project sparks more concern

Posted: Sunday, August 06, 2000

KENAI -- The Kenai Peninsula Borough's proposed Cooper Landing development is stuck in controversy again, delayed this week by disagreements on timing between the borough mayor and assembly members.

At issue is whether to spend nearly half a million dollars to build a connecting road and utilities to the 118-acre Russian Gap Subdivision.

Mayor Dale Bagley wants to spend as much as $492,000 now, while many of his assembly colleagues see no need to rush, with some questioning whether the project would break even.

At a borough assembly meeting this week, other concerns were raised. The soil at the 12-lot site is poor, mostly silt. There are no nearby wells so water depth and quality is unknown. And this would be throwing money on a road that essentially leads to nowhere, Nikiski resident Jackie Reahrig pointed out, the Peninsula Clarion reported.

''Maybe I'm ignorant, but you're talking about spending a half million dollars to build a road and put in utilities to someplace that hasn't even been sold and has nobody living in it,'' Reahrig said. ''And yet people . . . can't even get a proposition passed to where we can have a road . . . where people are living.''

Reahrig was referring to an earlier assembly decision to delay a decision whether to ask voters for road construction powers some Nikiski residents consider crucial for extending a road to Gray Cliff and Moose Point subdivisions.

Given so many issues, the assembly decided to postpone a decision until Aug. 15 on whether to appropriate money for the Cooper Landing road and utilities and authorize the sale of the subdivision lots.

The proposed sale of public lands at Cooper Landing has raised cackles in the past.

In March, the State Board of Game became the latest organization to take sides in the proposed sale of another Cooper Landing property owned by the borough.

A dispute between pro-development interests and people who value the land for recreation and wildlife viewing heated up when Game Board chairwoman Lori Quakenbush wrote Bagley. Quakenbush noted that the only public area available for viewing protected Dall sheep and mountain goats in their natural environment lies at the base of the Broadview Cliffs, on borough land targeted for another residential development.

There has been considerable controversy over past proposals to sell borough land in Cooper Landing, Bagley conceded. However, he said, most residents now favor the Russian Gap sale.

''I don't know what else to do to get land on the market,'' he said. ''We've sure put a lot of time and effort into this, and to make it for this year, this is it.''

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