Work on plan for future begins

Posted: Friday, October 17, 2003

Steering a municipal government requires careful planning and well-measured policies if the interests it serves are to benefit from good decisions.

For the Kenai Peninsula Borough, those interests are focused on the welfare of its residents, and one of the premier tools the borough currently uses to guide decision-making efforts is the 1992 Comprehensive Plan.

But that document now is largely out of date and the borough has launched a project to write a new comprehensive plan by 2005 that will carry the borough forward through 2015.

Comprehensive plans are important for several reasons, not only because they put into print a community's basic goals and values, which facilitate planning, but because they are required by many state and federal grants on which efforts to meet those goals depend, said Crista Cady-Hippchen, the borough's project manager on the comprehensive plan rewrite effort.

"If a goal is recognized in the plan as an issue of the community, when we apply for a grant, that helps back up your need," she said. "And that makes it important that the comprehensive plan is up to date with the state of the borough and changing political, economic and demographic realities."

Based on detailed descriptions of the borough, issues and goals at that time, the 1992 plan recommended future actions related to local government, population, demographics, land use, economy, public facilities and environmental policy. Subsequent changes within those domains, as well as in the local and national economy, state and federal regulations and other conditions, necessitate new policies and actions at the borough and local level, says a borough Web site devoted to the comprehensive plan project.

Interested residents can access that site at www.kpbcomp Among other things, the site includes a page for submitting comments. A copy of the existing comprehensive plan can be downloaded from the site. Once one is in the works, a draft of the new comp plan also will be available. The first step in writing a new plan is to identify new issues that need to be addressed.

In an effort to do that, the company hired to produce the new comp plan, Cogan Owens Cogan, of Portland, Ore., will hold a series of public meetings this month and next. (See the accompanying list of dates, this page.)

Cogan was chosen from six firms submitting proposals by the Aug. 1 deadline. Cogan earned the highest rating and a resolution passed in mid-September authorized Mayor Dale Bagley to sign a contract with Cogan for the comp plan development services for $210,480.

Following the end of the first round of public meetings, Cogan will begin updating information about conditions in the borough, as well as updating plan goals, policies and actions. That work will continue from November into June of next year.

A preliminary draft document is to be ready by September 2004 and a second round of public meetings will be held in October 2004.

The draft will be reviewed and refined through April 2005 and a final comprehensive plan adopted around May 2005.

Cogan Owens Cogan is the leading consulting team. The McDowell Group, based in Anchorage, is heading up survey efforts, updating selected portions of the plan and assisting with public outreach.

A nonprofit Portland, Ore.-based research firm called Ecotrust will assist with computer mapping and spatial analysis, while Kittelson and Associates Inc., will evaluate transportation issues and assist with selected public meetings.

It will be up to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission and Borough Assembly to review and adopt the new comprehensive plan.

Cady-Hippchen said borough residents should be aware that beginning sometime in late November or early December, the project will include a random telephone survey of 600 borough homes, asking questions crafted from the results of the first round of public meetings.

She said she is aware that many residents may have signed up for the much-publicized national "Do Not Call" list and might take exception to getting a survey call. But the information that might come from their participation could be very valuable to the project, she said.

"The survey should last about 10 minutes," she said. "We really need the public's help in making it a success."

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