Without any items up for public hearing at Tuesday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting, the assembly approved several new business items on their consent agenda to address at the start of the New Year.
Assembly Vice President Sue McClure directed the meeting in the absence of Assembly President Dale Bagley, who is away on vacation. With a light agenda the assembly adjourned after 45 minutes.
An ordinance to approve the local option zoning petition for Diamond Willow-Ravenwood subdivision to single-family residential was postponed to the March 17, 2015 meeting. Lands committee chair Mako Haggerty moved the ordinance out from the consent agenda and asked for postponement while the assembly waits for a decision on an appeal in front of the Board of Adjustment from Sean Cude, owner of a gravel pit on Virginia Drive who has requested a land use permit. The ordinance was up for public hearing at the Nov. 25 meeting and postponed until the Jan. 6, 2015 meeting.
Soldotna resident Crystal Penrod addressed the assembly Tuesday and expressed her disappointment with the assembly’s decision to delay the process. Penrod and her husband Travis Penrod are the head of the Diamond Willow Homeowners Association who have two local option zoning petitions submitted to the borough planning department that request a rezone to single-family residential.
“Both the assembly and planning commission members seem to not really know what local option zoning is,” Penrod said. “The delay is because of an appeal for land use permit by one person. If the appeal is in our favor, we would rather these two petitions be ready to go enact right then. If the appeal goes against us, we will appeal that decision and that’s another six months.”
The borough’s local option zone ordinance provides property owners in rural districts an opportunity to petition the assembly for greater restrictions on land use than otherwise provided under the borough code.
Assembly member Blaine Gilman said the assembly body is listening to the concerns of the homeowners. He said by waiting for the appeal process to take place, the petitioners have a better chance of getting what they want.
The assembly heard a quarterly report from Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Interim Superintendent Sean Dusek and Board of Education President Joe Arness. Dusek, who took over as superintendent for Dr. Steve Atwater, on Dec. 1, said he is committed to the position and proud of what the district has accomplished the last several years.
Dusek said enrollment projections estimate about 40 more students next year. Arness said the board is in the budget process right now and should have a “firm picture” of the budget situation by the end of January.
“We are sure we will be in a deficit situation, it’s just a question of how drastic that deficit is,” Arness said.
The school district employee contracts expire at the end of the year and new negotiations are expected to begin at the start of the year, Arness said.
“Until that is done, we don’t know what the bottom line is going to be,” he said. “Costs have a way to influence the budget given 82 percent goes to salaries and benefits.”
Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said he has planned regular meetings with Dusek to “stay on the same page” regarding education funding. Navarre said he has also requested a meeting with new Governor Bill Walker to talk about issues within the borough before the start of the legislative session.
The assembly passed a resolution that authorized a 70-acre donation from a Seward property owner to the borough for the Seward-Bear Creek Flood Service Area.
In light of the legalization of marijuana in the November election, the assembly will look to update an ordinance that amends employee conduct requirements at their next meeting. Haggerty said the ordinance is just to bring up to date the borough code regarding employee conduct.
Assembly member Kelly Cooper, who represents the Homer district, said she is interested in having future discussions and workshops on state marijuana regulations and how it will affect the borough.
The assembly confirmed the appointment of John Christensen to a seat on the Board of Equalization. Two former assembly members were also added to the Board of Adjustment. Former Assembly President Harold Smalley was appointed to Seat C and Bill Smith was appointed to alternate Seat B. Both term limits are set to expire Dec. 31, 2017.
Navarre acknowledged sorrow in the passing of longtime Soldotna resident Dolly Farnsworth, 92, who died Monday. Farnsworth was the first woman to sit on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in 1965.
“She was a pillar in the community, a homesteader and former mayor,” he said. “She was a mentor of mine and friend. Our thoughts go out to her family.”
In their closing comments all the assembly members wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The next borough assembly meeting is Jan. 6, 2015 in Soldotna.
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org