Kenai officials on Wednesday tentatively set Jan. 5 as the day for a public discussion on what is and is not allowed in the city's Limited Commercial zone.
The controversial issue that arose two weeks ago, of whether to rezone a 3-acre vacant lot across from Kenai Central High School, prompted the Kenai City Council to schedule an information meeting for neighbors of the vacant lot who want it to remain zoned Rural Residential.
After a number of property owners protested the rezoning plan at that time, Councilman Joe Moore moved to table consideration until the city administration brings back a more comprehensive list of properties along the Kenai Spur Highway corridor that should be considered for the limited commercial zoning; the city provides more information to the homeowners regarding what can be built in the limited commercial zone; and the matter goes back to Planning and Zoning for reconsideration at its Jan. 14 meeting.
The controversy stems from a rezoning request by Dr. Todd Wortham, the owner of the vacant lot, who wants to build a professional office complex including a dentist office for his practice.
Several members of the council said the limited commercial zone was created to serve as a buffer between residential areas of the city and high-traffic areas such as the city's commercial business district, and planners said Wortham's petition complies with city code.
The protesting property owners said they preferred to have their neighborhood remain residential, rather than having an office park built in their midst.
One property owner asked city councilmen, "How many of you would want a paved parking lot and office buildings next to your house?
"Seeing no hands, I say the easiest solution is just to vote no," said Ramon Rogers. "I'd hate to see the neighborhood go to hell."
One resident returned to Wednesday's council meeting repeating his opposition to the proposed rezone, but saying he wanted to speak to the greater topic of how the city relates to neighborhood property owners.
"I advocate for a more collaborative way of dealing with community issues," said Mark Schrag.
He asked that the rezone consideration be postponed beyond the Planning and Zoning Commission's Jan. 14 meeting to allow more public comment.
Schrag was of the opinion that residents need to have their comments in to the commission by Dec. 24 in order to be considered at the Jan. 14 meeting, but City Clerk Carol Freas said the meeting agenda packet would be prepared on Jan. 8, and City Manager Rick Koch said community input would not need to be submitted until "the sixth or the seventh."
Councilman Mike Boyle moved to have Planning and Zoning consideration bumped to Jan. 28, but the motion failed to get the four votes needed to pass.
"Unless something comes up, the fifth will be the day," Koch said regarding the public information meeting.
He said the city would be notifying all neighborhood residents who expressed interest in the proposed rezone.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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