Nikiski residents will be able to provide formal input on land issues in their area following approval by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly during the body’s Tuesday meeting of the creation of an advisory planning commission for the area.
Per the boundaries approved by assembly members Tuesday, the new Nikiski Advisory Planning Commission area will include the communities of Nikiski, Gray Cliff, Moose Point, Beluga, Tyonek and Kustatan — spread out across about 3.5 million acres.
Advisory planning commissions offer comments on things that the borough planning commission will vote on. That could include platting, permitted and certain legislative issues. There are currently six active advisory planning commissions in the borough: one each in Anchor Point, Cooper Landing, Funny River, Hope/Sunrise, Moose Pass and Kachemak Bay.
A seventh advisory planning commission exists in Kalifornsky, however, it was deemed inactive earlier this year after the group could not assemble enough commissioners to constitute a quorum.
Nikiski petitioners and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission have disagreed throughout the creation process about how big Nikiski’s advisory planning commission area should be. Those who favored a larger geographic area said the boundaries would align with Nikiski’s other service areas, while those opposed said the smaller area would more closely align with the borough’s other advisory planning commissions.
The commission area as petitioned and approved covers just over 3.5 million acres. That’s compared to the smaller footprint — roughly 307,000 acres — recommended by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission during its Aug. 22 meeting. Commissioners during that meeting voted 11-1 in favor of the reduced boundaries.
At 3.5 million acres, the Nikiski Advisory Planning Commission will cover more than 13 times the acreage than that of the Kachemak Bay Advisory Planning Commission — previously the borough’s largest by acreage — which covers 262,776 acres.
Nikiski resident Camille Broussard, who has been coordinating efforts to establish an advisory planning commission in Nikiski, asked assembly members Tuesday to oppose the planning commission’s recommendation, saying that “the Nikiski community strongly objects to the amended boundaries.”
She said the boundaries as initially proposed align with other Nikiski area designations, such as those for Assembly and Board of Education District 3, the Nikiski Fire Service Area Board and the Nikiski Senior Service Area Board.
“Our boundary elements unite us as a community,” Broussard said Tuesday. “The boundary elements that were petitioned for are identical to our fire service board area. The other areas are similar, or even encompass what was petitioned.”
Minutes from the Borough Planning Commission’s Aug. 22 meeting show that most commissioners were concerned about the ability of communities on the west side of Cook Inlet to provide relevant input on land issues involving Nikiski. At least one commissioner pushed back on the idea that advisory planning commissions should have similar boundaries to other types of service areas, according to meeting minutes.
Assembly members ultimately voted Tuesday against reducing the acreage of Nikiski’s advisory planning commission and approved the boundaries as petitioned.
Broussard, who submitted a letter of interest in creating an advisory planning commission for Nikiski to the borough in May, told the Clarion in July that she was motivated to start an advisory planning commission after the borough reclassified two parcels of land near Daniels Lake. Those parcels were ultimately removed from the reclassification.
Broussard successfully collected more than 40 signatures in support of the commission — more than the 22 required by the borough — which allowed the process to move forward. Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Director Robert Ruffner subsequently met with Nikiski residents at the Nikiski Community Recreation Center on July 19 to discuss the proposal and field questions.
Tuesday’s full assembly meeting can be streamed on the borough website at kpb.legistar.com. More information about the borough’s advisory planning commissions can be found on the borough’s planning website at kpb.us/planning-dept/planning-commissions/about-apcs.