All borough residents should have voice in new Comprehensive Plan

Posted: Friday, October 24, 2003

The Kenai Peninsula Borough is currently busy revising the borough's land use directives, development policy guidelines, planning and zoning policies and creating goals and objectives to direct the future decisions of our borough. Alaska state statute requires the development of this document and its adoption by ordinance.

The borough has assured us this document, known as the Comprehensive Plan, guides all policy development to ensure compliance with the stated goals and objectives of the borough, yet it has been reported that consideration of and adherence to those stated goals and objectives is not always practiced by the policymakers of the borough.

The current borough project manager has stated that some of the assembly people really use this document and refer to it often and that some of them don't really even have a copy of it.

It is reported that court decisions concerning resolution of disputes over land use are often based on the stated Comprehensive Plan objectives. That fact alone should clearly indicate the importance of this document and endorse the overwhelming need for strict adherence to those objectives when formulating borough policy, else the borough is exposing itself and its residents to costly litigation and unintended consequences.

It is possible that some of the following goals and objectives stated in the last plan should be adhered to and renewed.

One example from the current document was to ensure that the interests of borough residents are considered in management decisions regarding state and federal land within the borough. This brings to mind the recent inconsistent policy changes concerning borough endorsement of offshore leasing for oil and gas in the inlet, which run counter to previously enacted ordinances which set a higher standard for that endorsement.

The current goal to reduce land use conflicts arising from incompatible uses outside of incorporated cities seems to conflict with another goal to encourage incorporation of communities to allow zoning and land use regulations to be carried out on the municipal level.

The goals to maintain the freedom of property owners to control the use of their land and increase local participation in land use decisions are currently in effect, though, as demonstrated by recent coal bed methane development concerns, one might consider the borough has failed miserably.

The current goal of developing air and water quality baseline data is stated, but can the borough follow through in light of funding cuts to current monitoring studies?

Some possibly contentious or under-supported goals and objectives identified in the current edition of the Comprehensive Plan call for encouraging the development, funding and permitting of facilities, private or public, to dispose of larger quantities of unwanted toxic and hazardous wastes, establishing procedures for the sale of borough owned recreational land to private parties, establishing procedures for residents to "subscribe" and agree to pay their share for increased levels of road maintenance, and irrespective of the lack of trails authority, the establishment of trails to provide for recreational use by off-road vehicle and sled dog enthusiasts.

Whether you support these current goals and objectives or not, an extensive and realistic review of how effective the borough has been in implementing or abiding by these goals since their inception should be produced before creating a new whole new set of guidelines. Without such a review, how can we judge the effectiveness of the plan or the need for revisions?

The decision to address transportation goals and objectives apart from the current update of the Comprehensive Plan seems not to consider the inter-related role that transportation needs will play in the formulation of policy in other areas. An effort to re-incorporate transportation planning should be undertaken to address a truly comprehensive plan for integrated growth.

This new version is intended to guide borough policy development for the next 10 years, although past history shows that it may very well be in effect for a much longer period. One previous incarnation of the plan was in effect for 18

years before updating. The current plan has not been updated since 1992. The new update is not expected to be completed before 2005. Then again, it will also be subject to review and amendment by the assembly before adoption, so a firm date for adopting the new plan is far from certain and its ultimate content is also quite uncertain.

The project manager has stated that the borough is actively soliciting some special interest groups to gain their input and accommodate their concerns. It is possible your concerns and input may not be the same, so I would urge all of

you to ask your borough representative to ensure that your individual and area specific concerns be adequately addressed to guarantee a balanced policy guide.

Paul Zimmerman, Kasilof



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