Kenai council wants further review of business strategy

Airport plan grounded for now

Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2005


  An Era Aviation Twin Otter makes its approach to Kenai Municipal Airport against Wednesday¿s sunset. The Kenai City Council is reviewing a plan that discusses the airport¿s future. Photo by M. Scott Moon

An Era Aviation Twin Otter makes its approach to Kenai Municipal Airport against Wednesdays sunset. The Kenai City Council is reviewing a plan that discusses the airports future.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

The Kenai Airport Commission approved a supplement to the airport master plan earlier this month, but the Kenai City Council elected to slow the process to allow for a careful review.

“This has very major implications,” said council member Rick Ross in suggesting the council take more time to research the lengthy airport supplemental plan.

The council agreed and put off action on the revised plan until the second council meeting in January.

Of particular concern in the proposed strategic plan, which is being evaluated by consultant DOWL Engineers of Anchorage, is language contained in one of seven goals outlined in the plan.

In its draft form, one objective toward attaining the goal of maintaining the airport’s financial viability states: “Lease land and facilities within the airport boundary ... at fair market value rates and limit the sale of land outside the airport reserve to preserve future revenue-generating potential of the property.”

In fact, one of the suggestions the consultant made in assessing the plan was to establish an airport reserve to retain all city-owned land “to provide for the future economic, leasing and physical needs of the airport.”

Acting City Manager Chuck Kopp said Wednesday that Kenai is somewhat unusual in that it developed almost entirely on Federal Aviation Administration land adjacent to the original airport.

The FAA initially set up an airport reserve boundary to assure sufficient land would be available to aviation use as the airport grew.

Most of the current developed land lies within that original boundary, which went from the end of the runway to the north, along Float Basin Road to the west, down to the Kenai Spur Highway encompassing a southeast quadrant along a jagged line approximately parallel to Marathon Road.

Today, nearly all of Kenai’s central city area — Home Depot, Safeway, City Hall, the Kenai Mall — are in that original FAA reserve.

The new airport reserve, however, excludes those properties deeded over from the FAA.

While the boundary continues to run from the north end of the runway along Float Plane Road to the south end, the jagged line has moved considerably on the southeast side, and now runs along Main Street Loop to Trading Bay Road to Airport Drive and Baron Park Lane to Marathon Road.

Another improvement suggested by DOWL Engineers is that the city adopt new guidelines for setting the length of land lease terms with higher lessee investment requirements.

The consultant further recommended adopting a new method of setting land rental rates based on an airport-wide appraisal conducted every five years.

In its supplemental plan assessment, DOWL said the mission of Kenai Municipal Airport is to be “the commercial air transportation gateway to the Kenai Peninsula Borough and West Cook Inlet.”

The airport should be supported by “a well managed land-side development program,” the assessment states.

The formal strategy, as proposed, sets seven goals relating to scheduled air passenger activity at the airport, air taxi and general aviation services, air cargo and maintaining the financial viability of the airport.

The airport should be aesthetically pleasing and provide services with an eye toward safety, efficiency and convenience, according to the assessment.

In seeking maintained financial viability, the plan addresses specific provisions in the airport’s lease arrangements with commercial enterprises and service providers at the airport.

The council is expected to discuss the plan at its Jan. 18 meeting.

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