Soldotna extends its buffer zone

City says back off

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2007

Soldotna patched a hole in its zoning code and will now require residential developments in the commercial district to be at least 40 feet back from the curb line.

The amending ordinance, which was passed unanimously Wednesday night, came in response to complaints from citizens displeased with the proximity of the new Timberwolf Condominiums to the Sterling Highway in the middle of Soldotna's business district.

In addition to having front yard setbacks of 40 feet from the curb or 20 feet from the property line, future residential developments in the commercial zone will be required to have rear and side yards of at least 20 feet.

Off-street parking, which is mandatory in the commercial district, will not be allowed in the setback areas, under the new change.

To protect riparian habitat along the Kenai River from potentially higher impact, residential buildings in the commercial and limited commercial districts will be prohibited in the first 50 feet from the high water mark inside the Kenai River Overlay District.

Carolyn Cannava, principal of Soldotna Elementary School, commended the council members for "looking at the problem I first brought to your attention."

The city council also upheld a decision of City Manager Tom Boedeker to discontinue pursuing a Community Development Block Grant on behalf of Love In the Name of Christ for a transitional housing project.

Because the block grants can only be awarded to municipalities, the council agreed last fall to apply for the $500,000 grant for Love INC to develop a multi-unit transitional housing facility to be built on a parcel of city-owned land near the Alaska State Troopers E Detachment headquarters on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

The grant uses state and federal money and therefore places a number of burdensome requirements on the city and Love INC under the federal Fair Housing Act, the Housing and Urban Development Act and the Civil Rights Act, according to Boedeker.

Additionally, Love INC would need to complete the transitional housing facility within 18-24 months of signing the grant agreement.

Boedeker recommended passing on this grant opportunity, encouraging Love INC to pursue other grants for funding the project, and possibly reapplying for the community block grant at sometime in the future.

"That does not mean this project should not be considered," Boedeker said, explaining he simply did not feel the block grant was the best funding solution for the project.

Also at Boedeker's suggestion, the council approved a regulation requiring a material hauling permit for firms trucking gravel, sand and other materials over city streets.

He said the city had been made aware of plans for 1,300 loads of gravel to be hauled from the North Star pit, down the Kenai Spur Highway, along Birch Street to the Sterling Highway and around to a state road project on Jones Stub off Kalifornsky Beach Road.

In order for the contractor to meet a state requirement that the materials come from no farther than five miles away, the trucks would need to cut down Birch Street rather than staying on the Spur highway all the way to the Soldotna "Y."

Birch Street, however, is not designed to handle that much heavy traffic at one time, Boedeker and Public Works Director Steve Bonebrake said.

Under the regulation, haulers would be subject to permits restricting that amount of hauling, the hours of operation and mandating daily and final cleanup of streets and the sides of the roads.

All council members except Shane Horan voted in favor of the regulation, which would be in effect for 60 days until Oct. 7.

During the council meeting, Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michelle Glaves said the chamber has formed a fundraising committee for the visitors center expansion project. She said preliminary plans call for expanding the existing building out toward the Kenai River, and Glaves said construction would take about 1 1/2 years once started.

"There are still a whole lot of unknowns," Glaves said.

In other business, the council:

* Authorized a $3,062,868 contract to Wolverine Supply Inc. for the Soldotna Municipal Airport improvement project;

* Appropriated additional funds for the $508,067 Ridgewood Drive and Diane Lane street improvement;

* Authorized a $29,772 contract with Foster Construction Inc. for the Cohoe Avenue sink hole repair project; and

* Awarded a $22,964 contract to Alaska Roadbuilders Inc. to replace asphalt on streets torn up to repair frozen water line damage last winter. The streets to be repaired include Shady Lane, Beluga Avenue and Aspen Drive.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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