Kenai defines junk, defers action on buffer

Posted: Friday, October 19, 2007

After clearing up a couple of misconceptions held by the community, the Kenai City Council OK'd an ordinance defining junk, referred a buffer strip resolution to the Airport Commission and postponed renewal of a Recreation Center management contract.

"I heard you passed an ordinance outlawing Conex in Kenai," said Chris Garcia, referring to large metal shipping containers some people use as storage sheds near their homes.

"No, we did not pass anything," said Pat Porter, who was sworn in to a second three-year term as mayor at Wednesday's council meeting. "It hasn't even come before Planning and Zoning."

The mayor said she would be happy to let Garcia know when the issue is scheduled for a hearing.

Later in the meeting, Garcia asked why the council was reconsidering an ordinance defining junk, garbage and litter, when the ordinance failed to pass a year ago.

"We threw away the old ordinance. This is a whole new one," Porter said, explaining that the ordinance that failed for lack of a second last year was deemed unenforceable.

"I hear little bits and pieces, but I don't understand where the problem is," said Garcia. "We're getting too picky.

"It's like everybody's meddling in others' business. I think we're really going overboard," he said.

Porter told Garcia why it is important for the city to disallow public nuisances such as junk and garbage from accumulating on private property and why it is necessary for the city to address health and safety issues that could arise.

The council passed the new ordinance unanimously.

Residents of the Sprucewood Glen Subdivision once again voiced their opposition to the city's plans for a strip of land along Walker Lane separating their neighborhood from the business district where a new Aspen Hotel is being built.

The controversy arose when the Homer Electric Association sought an easement across the strip in order to bring electric power to the new hotel. Negotiations with the city led to a proposal for the electric utility to swap a 60-foot wide easement coursing the middle of the strip for a 20-foot wide easement it preferred to have behind the hotel.

The residents protested against the cutting of trees that serve as a buffer between their homes and the business district.

On Wednesday, the council was slated to consider two alternatives one establishing the tract of land from the Kenai Spur Highway to Tern Avenue as a buffer, the other dividing the tract in two parts. The section between Tern and a right-of-way across from Lawton Drive would be set aside as a buffer and the parcel from Lawton to the highway would be reserved for possible commercial development.

The protestors said the latter alternative was a half measure that only protected some of the homeowners with a buffer.

After some discussion, the council sent the measure to the Airport Commission for review at its Nov. 8 meeting. The land lies within the Airport Reserve.

Unrelated to the utility work being done on the property, some brush clearing and tree trimming has been done as part of an ongoing spruce bark beetle management program in the city.

Councilman Mike Boyle said he does not like the fact that the clearing now makes it possible to see Home Depot while driving down Walker Lane.

"I don't think the city should take any more action on that land until the Airport Commission comes back (with its recommendation)," Boyle said.

Councilman Rick Ross reminded the members that the council approved the management program two months before the buffer zone topic arose.

"To leave the public with the impression that administration did something without the direction of council is inaccurate," Ross said. "We approved this two months ago."

Boyle said, had he known what the end result of the work was going to look like, he would not have given his OK.

The buffer zone issue will come back to the council following the Airport Commission's review.

The council also postponed action on renewing a management contract with the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula to run the city's Recreation Center.

Councilman Bob Molloy said he would like the city attorney to revise some of the wording in the contract as it relates to the length of the pact and the frequency with which the Boys and Girls Club submits financial reports to the council for review.

Club President Peter Micciche told the council attendance has increased since his organization assumed management responsibilities and the number of calls for public safety response has "dropped dramatically."

"The kids who have come back to the (teen) center after stopping, are giving positive recommendations to their peers," he said.

In other business, the council approved a contract with the Kenai Central High School Ski Team Booster Club donating $7,500 to the club in exchange for club and team members cleaning the city's beaches and dunes during the personal use, dipnet fishery next year.

City Clerk Carol Freas administered the oath of office to Barry Eldridge, who was reelected to a three-year term as councilman, and to newly elected Councilman Hal Smalley. after the municipal election results were certified.

Councilwoman Linda Swarner was elected vice mayor.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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