Rarely do two men who fall on the opposite side of a contentious local issue shake hands three times after the public hearing.
But that's what happened at the Oct. 26 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting.
Up for public hearing was an ordinance that would allow the borough to sell 157 acres at less than fair market value to the Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions for the Twin City Raceway.
It wasn't the sale itself that concerned Steven Phelps; it was the noise that racers emit late at night and on the weekends. The Twin City neighbor wanted the borough assembly to stipulate noise restraints in any land sale.
"It's the constant practicing all the time. You can't sit outside and have a barbecue and talk to people. I've had people come over to my house and say, 'How can you live with that noise?'" Phelps said this week. "If I'm on the phone and I'm outside, people can hear it on the phone."
The Twin City Raceway, off the Kenai Spur Highway, hosts a variety of motor sport events throughout the year, most notably the Alaska State Motocross Series.
After Phelps delivered his testimony at last month's meeting, Barney Phillips, president of the Racing Lions' motocross division, took the stand. But rather than discredit Phelps' concerns, he acknowledged them and said they were concerns the raceway would address.
"I never knew anybody was upset or had any other complaints. I was caught completely off guard and did not plan to speak," Phillips said this week. "We really are concerned about being good neighbors, and we don't want residents of Kenai being upset."
The two men exchanged telephone numbers instead of combative words and worked toward a compromise.
"We went out in the hallway and talked, and Phillips seemed really willing to work toward anything we can do to make the situation right," Phelps said. "He said that he was very sorry and that he did not really realize that it was such a disturbance in the neighborhood."
Phillips said he appreciated Phelps' calm demeanor.
"Sometimes when people complain they are upset and you don't see their real side, maybe they are up for a fight. Steven (Phelps) did not seem like that at all," Phillips said. "I was happy to experience that and really within five minutes into the conversation I knew we could find a solution in this."
The land sale ordinance is scheduled for another public hearing on Jan. 4, but the more controversial part is already being addressed through the compromise of two citizens.
"I shook his hand three times, and I really felt good about that," Phelps said. "I took it as a man-to-man thing, and I felt that we were moving forward to solve the issue."
Andrew Waite can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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