Zoning, wood burning requests come before council

Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A few concerned citizens presented at the Kenai City Council meeting last week, petitioning the governing body to make some changes to the city's residential zoning.

Colleen Ward and Mark Schrag, residents from the MAPS subdivision, asked the council to realign the city's land use table to meet with the comprehensive plan starting with that subdivision, as well as make some changes to the conditional use permit process.

"Kenai has decided we don't want to look like a Wasilla. We don't want to have business lining the main corridor," Ward said.

According to Ward, the city's current land use tables for the rural residential subdivision allow for many commercial and industrial uses with a conditional use permit. And these liberal uses do not accurately reflect the city's comprehensive plan, she said.

"Our comprehensive plan, which was developed by the citizens of Kenai, provides a clear vision to guide our development," she said. "Unfortunately, our prevailing land use tables do not accurately align with this vision."

Ward asked the council to revise the land use tables in accordance with Kenai's comprehensive plan using the MAPS subdivision as a "guinea pig."

"We're in a very vulnerable position in the way the land tables are currently structured," she said. "The residents of the community and their families shouldn't be in that position. There's a process in place that works and we're beginning that process."

There are several ways in which the MAPS neighbors can begin the public process of altering the land use tables, through council action, the planning and zoning commission, or public petition, she said.

"We would like to pursue this change in collaboration with the council and planning and zoning using the avenue you consider most appropriate," Ward said.

Schrag spoke specifically about the city's conditional use permitting process.

He said there is "virtually no use that is not permitted" in the rural residential and rural residential one zones.

"We would like to see ordinances changed back to where neighborhoods are protected from commercial development," he said.

He outlined a few other requests for the council in terms of requiring neighborhood approval for a rezone -- expanding the area affected from 300 to 500 feet; better notification with bright-colored signage; and a 10-day published notice, instead of seven.

Also, Schrag said, "the burden of proof seems to be on the neighborhood rather than the applicant" in the city's permitting process and that should not be the case.

These requests come after last year's contentious passage of Proposition A in the city of Kenai's general election, which repealed a city council zoning action, reverting 14 lots on the north side of the Kenai Spur Highway back to rural residential from the designation of limited commercial. The MAPS neighbors are now trying to collaborate with the city to further protect their neighborhood, Ward said.

Another Kenai resident, Carolyn Unger, who lives in the Woodland subdivision, presented to the council regarding another zoning request.

"I'm here to ask you to make an ordinance restricting where outdoor wood burning boiler furnaces are allowed," she said.

She said she was trying to enjoy a nice morning outside her house when the discharge from a neighbor's outdoor wood burning boiler furnace disrupted her day.

The emissions of these types of furnaces are toxic and can be harmful to humans and animals, Unger said.

She asked the council to consider regulation on these furnaces, like not allowing them on lots less than 80,000 square feet or any closer than 300 to 500 feet from a neighboring residence.

The council directed city administration to look into these citizens' requests.

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

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