Looking good: Council changes code to deal with neighborhood aesthetics

Posted: Monday, August 30, 2010

In an effort to maintain aesthetic and property values, the Kenai City Council amended the city's public nuisance code to include burned out buildings at its meeting Aug. 18.

The proposed amendment originally included a section about "unsightly premises," including junk in yards, but after a battle of semantics, the council voted to remove that section in order to pass the ordinance.

Council member Joe Moore said he supports the amendment about structures destroyed or partially destroyed by fire being a nuisance but he thought the part on "unsightly premises" needed more work.

Council member Ryan Marquis said he had problems with the word "unsightly," especially the phrase "vegetation that is unsightly."

He had been out of town and hadn't mowed his lawn so would his overgrown grass be considered "unsightly?" he asked.

"It's too broad, there's too much ambiguity and I can't support it," Marquis said.

Council member Barry Eldridge had similar thoughts about "unsightly' premises including "waste, lumber, or unused objects" on personal property.

"This is Alaska. We're not downtown L.A. or something," he said.

In Alaska, he said, its common for people to keep lumber in their yards, or store things that need to be fixed.

"It does not fit with Alaska mentality," he said about the proposed section.

Marquis moved to amend the proposed ordinance to remove the sub-section on this topic. The motion passed unanimously.

Natalia Levitt, the owner of an apartment building on Bluff Street and Peninsula Avenue, spoke to the council in support of the ordinance.

She said she wanted the council to enforce cleaning up property, especially the one block between Bluff and Marine streets in Old Town Kenai.

She said the valuable property is being deteriorated by the "boxes" on that street.

"Humans can't live in these places," she said. "I understand people that only do bad activities accept them."

Council member Bob Molloy said he wanted to postpone the ordinance altogether to have a council work session before sending it back to the planning and zoning commission. He said he was concerned about different processes within the health and safety section of city code and the planning and zoning section, like those pertaining to the appeals process in these nuisance situations.

"My concern is that we're kind of piecemealing things," Molloy said.

Council member Hal Smalley agreed with Molloy, saying that it should be postponed to fix incongruities in the code.

Porter said she was concerned that postponing the amended ordinance too much would lose the council's work altogether because of the upcoming municipal election and possible changes in the council's constitution.

Molloy moved to postpone the ordinance. The motion failed 4-3.

According to memo on the ordinance by Kenai Mayor Pat Porter, this suggestion was born out of this spring's Town Hall Meeting on building a sustainable community held by the City of Kenai.

Participants wanted the city to take actions to strengthen neighborhoods and promote health and safety by removing burned buildings and derelict structures, as well as encouraging beautification, protective zoning and community building, she wrote.

The amended public nuisance ordinance passed 4-3 with Boyle, Molloy and Smalley dissenting.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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