It's all about guarding their quality of life, according to residents of Poppy Woods Subdivision. However, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission could find nothing in borough code to substantiate the residents' 24 separate appeals.
Lacking the commission's support, the residents are prepared to take their concerns to the next level, the nine-member borough assembly sitting as the borough's Board of Adjustment.
The issues center on development of Zephyr Fields Estates, a 116-acre, 113-lot subdivision off Jones Stub. Developer Clint Hall's plan includes connecting to streets in Poppy Woods. This would allow residents of Zephyr Fields access to Kalifornsky Beach Road either by Jones Stub to Gaswell or through Poppy Woods to West Poppy Lane.
Poppy Woods residents, however, say that increased traffic from Zephyr Fields would create safety risks to their quiet neighborhood and would put an unbearable burden on the existing gravel streets.
"We think the (borough) administration lost a great opportunity to reinforce the positive direction that the community wanted to take with regards to quality of life," said Poppy Woods resident Steve DeVito. "The pages of signatures, hours of testimony and number of appeals definitely established a reasonable type of quality of life. After all, if you were buying a house and had the choice of one on a busy through street vs. one on a quiet dead end or cul-de-sac, which one would you buy? The need for a particular quality of life was made clear.
"Hopefully we can get through to them about the importance of protecting and improving a quality of life and requiring responsible development," DeVito said. "Our community is very united on this. We're not asking for much, and it wouldn't take much to straighten this mess out."
In August, Poppy Woods residents made the borough's plat committee aware of their concerns. Noting the widespread interest, the committee gave subdivision residents and Hall two weeks to explore alternative development plans. Although other options were considered, the one formally submitted by Hall and approved by the plat committee on Aug. 27 included the use of Poppy Woods streets for access routes.
At the Oct. 24 meeting of the planning commission, commissioner Dick Troeger, also a plat committee member, noted that the committee found nothing in borough code to substantiate quality of life appeals. According to minutes of the commission's Oct. 24 meeting, the committee felt that approving the plat was "not the right thing to do;" however, they had no choice but to give their approval "although it diminished the quality of life in the neighboring subdivision."
The section of code referenced throughout the commission's Oct. 24 decision-making session was Title 20.04.010, Subdivisions, General Provisions:
"The purpose of this title is to promote an adequate and efficient street and road system, to provide utility easements, to provide minimum standards of survey accuracy and proper preparation of plats and to protect and improve the health, safety and general welfare of the people."
Commissioner Ray Tauriainen said the wording was too vague regarding a definition for quality of life. On the other hand, he said it was too specific in stating that quality of life would be improved. Tauriainen questioned whether that would always be possible, particularly in the situation involving Poppy Woods.
DeVito, however, said he didn't understand the commission's frustration with the borough code.
"They expressed that they voted reluctantly against the appeal, but didn't know what to do," he said. "They seemed frustrated with a lack of control over the issue. We don't understand this, and we're not sure what reasons were strong enough to cause a vote against conscience."
For his part, Hall said his company recognized the need for new construction in the area.
"And that's what we're trying to provide," he said.
What he didn't understand were the issues of health, welfare and safety that have been raised.
"In a residential area, bringing in residents doesn't seem like it should qualify as a safety issue," Hall said. "If we brought in a prison or a refinery or a sewage treatment plant or an electrical power plant, then I could see maybe it being a concern, but not when you're talking residential and residential."
Hall said he was aware that Poppy Woods residents intend to take their concerns to the assembly, and he had no idea what to expect as an outcome. In the meantime, he said he had crews cleaning up the proposed development site after having a logging company remove trees.
"I don't have any plans ahead of that," Hall said. "I don't know when we'll actually start construction."
Poppy Woods resident Terri Springer said she was "blown away" by the commission's decision.
"It would be nice to have someone on the commission say to us that they heard what we said and they want to create neighborhoods that foster the type of lifestyle that people all over want -- safe communities, tight-knit communities where people look after each other," Springer said. "But when you have a bunch of busy roads and neighborhoods are so big that you feel disenfranchised, it isn't community building."
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