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Third time a charm?

Posted: Monday, December 15, 2008

In the hope of reuniting Soldotna residents split over where to build a city cemetery, the mayor, on Wednesday, entertained a motion by the city council to form a committee to seek a "compromise site."

Referring to the 1995 Soldotna Comprehensive Plan recommendation that the city have its own cemetery, Mayor Peter Micciche said, "Thirteen years is too long."

Most recently a city-appointed Memorial Park Task Force recommended a cemetery be built on 10 acres of city property next to the Kenai River at the end of what would be Corral Street if the road were extended. Because the road does not exist, planned access to the cemetery would be from Redoubt Avenue across a borough-owned 10-acre parcel to the south of the city property. The city-owned land is referred to as "the Redoubt property."

A number of property owners in the Mooring by the River Subdivision north of the city-owned parcel repeatedly have expressed opposition to a cemetery being built next to their neighborhood.

Faced with the opposition, the Soldotna City Council directed the city manager earlier this year to proceed with activities aimed at building a cemetery near the Soldotna Municipal Airport -- the task force's number-three choice.

In October, a ballot initiative in Soldotna favored the Redoubt property. The 531 to 310 vote was advisory only and did not mandate the city to change direction.

Micciche and the council, however, decided to revisit the issue, mainly due to the division created within the city.

"One message you're hearing is the majority do not like the airport site," Micciche said Wednesday.

Councilman Shane Horan suggested the council "put something on the table to get this resolved."

At the urging of Micciche, Horan offered a motion to consider the Redoubt site, but after some discussion among council members, he withdrew his motion.

Councilman Ed Sleater said, "This would be the third time we go to that site. What's a third visit going to do for us?"

The airport site is not anyone's top choice, according to Councilman Jim Stogsdill.

"I would be in favor of looking for a compromise site -- not at the airport -- and giving ourselves three months to find something," Stogsdill said.

After Horan withdrew his original motion, Councilman Scott McLane moved to have the mayor initiate a small task force of four people to seek a compromise site not within 500 yards of a school.

Micciche said he favored the sound of "committee" rather than "task force," in seeking to unite residents, and suggested he would like the committee to have two representatives from each side of the controversy as well as two members of the council.

"I would like six," Micciche said.

Saying he suddenly had an aversion to another task force, Stogsdill said if there is going to be one, the team should have a report back to the council by April, not allow the issue to drag on.

McLane, the maker of the motion, said he would be OK with a June 1 deadline.

The council agreed unanimously.

"I've been disappointed with the divisive nature of this topic," said Micciche. "I will be contacting folks for the committee."

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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