At least one Kenai resident is championing the cause for urban trees currently facing the ax wielded by economic development.
Kellie Kelso is scheduled to make her objections known to the Kenai City Council at Wednesday's council meeting.
The trees Kelso is defending are along a strip of city land off Walker Avenue facing the chain saws of Homer Electric Association as it moves to bring electricity service to the new Aspen Hotel going up behind McDonald's restaurant.
HEA, which already has a 60-foot utility easement through the strip of land all the way from the Kenai Spur Highway back to Tern Avenue, asked the city for a perpendicular 60-foot easement to bring power to the back of the hotel.
City Manager Rick Koch frowned on that plan, saying it would leave a wide open view from Walker Avenue of the back of the new Aspen.
Instead, he proposed an angular 20-foot easement off the main power line north of the hotel running along the backside of the hotel to the service connection. HEA, however, said the route established too much impedance to bring an adequate power supply.
The utility provider offered to vacate its current 60-foot easement for the power line it said it plans to take out of service within five years, in exchange for a 20-foot easement behind the hotel and running all the way from the highway to Tern.
Koch said that swap would benefit the city, the utility and the hotel.
The trees in the 20-foot easement, however, would have to go.
HEA already keeps trees out of its 60-foot easement, pruning every year or two, according to Koch, and if the exchange takes place, trees would once again be allowed to grow there.
"Alders would be up in a couple years," he said. "The city could even put some trees in there, but (the strip of land) is zoned commercial."
In other business, the city council is slated to once again consider extending the maximum lease term, including any extension, of land within the airport reserve from 35 to 55 years.
In the past, some have argued the longer lease term encourages private parties to lease the land from the city; a shorter term does not.
The council also is expected to consider transferring $40,000 in the runway safety project fund for a number of electrical runway control items.
On the consent agenda for introduction are ordinances for appropriating $888,000 and $1.15 million for roadway paving and Marathon Drive improvements respectively.
Koch said some components of the Marathon improvements are designed in anticipation of the new Wal-Mart superstore being planned for Kenai, and said some aspects of the project such as paving Marathon all the way to the Willow Street intersection are planned to attract future industrial development in the area.
The city council meeting is slated to begin at 7 p.m., following a 5:45 work session on bear-resistant garbage cans in residential areas of the city.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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