Poppy Woods controversy heats up

Borough Plat Committee rejects residents' concerns over new subdivision

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2001

The hopeful attitude of Poppy Woods Subdivision homeowners was all but extinguished by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Plat Committee's decision regarding development of neighboring Zephyr Hills Estates on Monday. However, developer Clint Hall said he's still seeking solutions that will leave everyone smiling.

Faced with alternatives for the development of the new 115-acre subdivision between Merrywood Avenue and Jones (Stub) Road, off Gaswell, the committee approved Hall's plan to connect with Poppy Woods and Silverweed, two access routes that currently connect Poppy Woods Subdivision to West Poppy Lane.

"What happened was that we had met with Hall prior to Monday's meeting and had kind of a gentlemen's agreement, a handshake, that he'd bring something acceptable to the committee," said Poppy Woods Subdivision resident Steve DeVito. "Actually, just the opposite happened. I don't know what to say. It's very disappointing."

Hall, on the other hand, said he is continuing to explore options.

"We want to know how much change we can make without having to go through the full reapplication process," Hall said. "We're not finished yet."

At an Aug. 13 plat committee meeting, residents of Poppy Woods Subdivision expressed concern that connecting the two subdivisions would hurt their quality of life. The proposed plat for Zephyr Hills includes three access streets to Jones (Stub) Road, a gravel road maintained by the Alaska Department of Transportation that connects to Kalifornsky Beach Road by way of Gaswell. The through streets proposed by Hall would create access to West Poppy, a paved borough street that accesses Kalifornsky Beach with the added benefit of a stop light.

Issues raised by residents focused on the safety of children walking on Poppy Woods streets in order to catch the school bus. They also expressed concern that added traffic would place a load beyond which the existing gravel streets could bear.

Dick Troeger, plat committee member, said the committee postponed a decision until Monday's meeting, hoping the developer and residents would find an acceptable alternative.

Prior to the Monday meeting, Hall indicated the possibility of a plat revision to extend the two streets in question into Zephyr Hills, ending them with cul-de-sacs rather than making through streets. However, Mary Toll, a borough planning officer, said Hall's cul-de-sac option varied too much from the original proposal.

"It was not considered because it was a major design change which would have required new notification and new scheduling," she said. "It would have been like starting from scratch, and the developer didn't want to do that. And the cul-de-sac design didn't seem to appease anyone's concerns."

But Hall says he hasn't given up, in spite of the committee's decision. He said his surveyor, Cliff Baker, is exploring options to shorten the cul-de-sacs.

"We want to know how much change we can make without having to go through the full reapplication process," Hall said. "We're not finished yet."

Poppy Woods homeowner Terri Springer attended the Monday meeting with her husband, Brian.

"We had hoped that the cul-de-sac on the revised plan would show 10 or fewer homes," said Springer of the alternative that was handed out at the beginning of Monday's meeting, leaving the standing-room crowd little time to review it. "It showed 18 or 19, which, in effect, doubled our subdivision."

Although Hall's plan complies with borough code, DeVito said, quality of life should be a consideration.

"Code does specify that it must improve on and promote the quality of life," DeVito said. "Since we already had 100 people telling them about quality of life, they know what they need to improve on. They're just not listening to the people. It was a real slap in the face, and I guess nobody understands why."

In a section of the Kenai Peninsula Borough code addressing economic development, enhanced quality of life is defined as "an improvement of community characteristics affecting lifestyles within the borough based upon community standards and determined by the borough assembly with input from the community at large."

"To me, it's so basic," DeVito said. "You look at the code, what people want, and you put two and two together and come up with a sensible solution. It would be different if 20 or even one person said why we need to do it this way, but there wasn't anyone. At the rate things are going, this is not a step of progress. This is a step or regression."

Toll said everyone involved had been made aware of the appeal process, which involves taking the plat committee's decision to the planning commission within a 10-day period. From there, it can be appealed to the borough assembly.

"I think it's the intent of the subdivision to appeal this so it gets into the hands of the borough assembly, and the assembly is the one to say that one person's profit is worth upsetting the lifestyle of the 37 residents in a subdivision," said Kelly Keating, another Poppy Woods resident. "That's really what it comes down to. It will be interesting to see what value they put on a neighborhood."

Hall said he expected the plat committee's decision to be appealed.

"Regardless if it's appealed or not appealed, we can still approach the borough planning department and see how much change we can make to this plat," he said. "If it's appealed, hopefully we'll have a little revision on this plat. If it's not appealed, we'll still see if we can come up with the same amount of revision."

Residents are feeling a ripple effect on nearby streets. Bill and Judy Guadinier and their neighbors Huel and Carrie Waddell live on Whisperwood, a street running parallel to Poppy Woods. The two couples reported having applied to vacate the right of way on Whisperwood in an effort to stop it from being used as a through street to Zephyr Estates.

Ironically, the Waddells live in a home built by Hall.

"We wanted this for our retirement home," said Carrie Waddell. "My husband is 70 and I'm 65. We wanted some quiet time for retirement. I just hope and pray they won't use Whisperwood for a road to the subdivision."

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