Two proposals designed to address flooding issues in the Kalifornsky Beach Road area were left unresolved after the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly’s Tuesday meeting.
One proposal would have formed a new economic development district for most of assembly member Kelly Wolf’s district, the other would have allowed the borough to exchange one piece of land for another to secure a drainage easement near mile 12 of Kalifornsky Beach Road.
The borough has been discussing the land swap for at least a year. The proposal involves a 4.3 acre parcel in the Kingswood Estates Subdivision to be reserved for a borough drainage easement in exchange for a 1.8 acre bluff lot owned by the borough.
The borough parcel would be given to Paula and Timothy Keohane, who allowed the borough to use their property during the 2013 for a drainage purposes. The area is also known as the Karluk Basin and during the flooding, the borough installed a pipe underneath K-Beach road allowing it to mechanically pump water into the Cook Inlet once the Karluk Basin reached 3 million gallons of water or more.
“This exchange makes good sense for the borough,” said Mayor Mike Navarre. “There is an easement that is reserved there and (the property owners) have said they’re not intending to do anything with their property, so it’s a perpetual easement for us. We get the funcitonal use of it and we maintain the functional use of the borough property.”
The 1.8 acre parcel the borough would be trading to the Keohanes also has a 60 foot drainage easement on it that the borough would maintain. Assembly members raised concerns during a committee meeting, saying that the value of the two parcels was not directly comparable and that the drainage easement could potentially be too small to fit an excavator.
Navarre said the borough had reserved a construction easement in addition to its 60 foot drainage easement. He said the value of the parcels may not be monetarily comparable but that the borough was getting a good deal.
“It’s tough to measure that apples to apples,” Navarre said.
Another issue is an Aug. 11 letter assembly members from the Department of Transportation expressing opposition to a portion of the project.
“Quite frankly, there’s a lot of meddling going on in that issue,” Navarre said. “The reality, I believe, is that DOT in earlier communications indicated that they thought we were draining a wetlands. We’re not intending to drain a wetlands… The only situation where there might be some water flow is in an extreme flood situation like we had in 2013. But, it has been characterized and suggested that we’re attempting to drain a wetlands, or we’re draining it into a DOT right-of-way, but it’s really only going to be in a flood situation so we’re going to contact DOT and attempt to work it out.”
Some members of the public testified that the borough should not trade the smaller lot as it would need all of that land as a drainage easement, not just 60 feet of it.
Navarre said the DOT had verified that the easement was adequate, but did not have documentation to prove the agency’s verification. Assembly member Wayne Ogle said he’d like to see the DOT provide something in writing.
“I think the borough needs to do its due diligence to receive a second party and a very important second party’s validation of it,” Ogle said.
Assembly members voted to take up the issue again during its Oct. 13 meeting.
Wolf submitted the second proposal dealing with K-Beach flooding issues. If passed, it would have put a question to voters on whether to form a new economic development service area. It would have created a special election in November to allow voters inside of the proposed Central Peninsula Economic Development Service Area to vote on gaining expanded economic development services in District 1 which stretches from the Cook Inlet along Kalifornsky Beach Road and Cannery Road east toward Soldotna with an easternmost boundary at Sports Lake.
Several member people testified both in favor and against the proposal.
“I feel it will give residents in the area a greater say in how their money is spent,” said Scott Mobely, who lives near Kalifornsky Beach Road.
“I still have a hard time understanding how some residents in this area are entitled to roads and roadside ditches that meet borough standards at borough expense and how others are not.”
Others, whose homes are located in the proposed area but away from the formerly flooded zones were opposed.
“I do not live in the flood area, yet I would be taxed if I lived in that area for this economic development district,” said Sammy Crawford. “There are processes in place … there’s infrastructure to do these things. To create a new bureaucracy sounds very confusing an unnecessary.”
Crawford said an economic development district would end up costing the borough money.
“Economic development always sounds great, it’s motherhood and apple pie. But it doesn’t pencil out,” Crawford said. “They’ll need more employees … it could also mitigate the borough’s ability to apply for grants (to help deal with flooding issues).”
Ultimately, Wolf decided to withdraw his proposal and requested that the ordinance be tabled indefinitely.
Reach Rashah McChesney at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens