Junk vehicles may be allowed to remain in people's yards under a code change resolution before the Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission tonight.
Marilyn Kebschull, planning administrator for the city, said the change is intended to reflect current practice in the municipal code.
"Right now our investigations are complaint-driven. If we get a call, we'll send someone out to investigate," she said. "But if (the offending vehicle) is covered or obscured by a fence and we can't see it from the right-of-way, we let it go."
She said the code does not provide such leniency.
"The code is pretty stringent right now. If it's not registered, it's considered junk," Kebschull said.
And if it is junk, code calls for it to be removed.
But the practice has been to allow vehicles that are covered in tarps or hidden by landscaping.
She said one property owner has had what he considers classic cars on his large lot for years, and it was never a problem because of the dense woods. But all that changed when he had beetle-killed trees removed from the property and the vehicles became visible.
"We want to allow people to keep vehicles on their property as long as it's not affecting their neighbors," Kebschull said. "We have to be realistic. It's a private property rights issue."
She said there will still be a gray area in the code when it comes to neighbors able to see junk vehicles in someone's yard from a second story window, when they cannot be seen from the road.
"You get into questions of legal air space, and the city attorney would have to handle that," she said.
Another issue up for public hearing at the meeting tonight is banning motor vehicles from vegetated areas on the south shore of the Kenai River.
"We already prohibit vehicles on the north side," Kebschull said. "Now more people are going down to the south side."
The issue is more of a problem during the dipnetting season in July, when dipnetters drive down to the beach and park in the grass above the high-water line, she said.
The area to be included in the ban, according to a city map, is the entire grassy spit on the south shore. Kebschull said vehicles would still be allowed on the beach itself.
If approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission tonight, the measures will be introduced at the Sept. 20 Kenai City Council meeting, with a public hearing before that body on Oct. 4.
If passed, they will go into effect 30 days later.
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