Michael Clements testifies before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Feb. 16 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Michael Clements testifies before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Feb. 16 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly votes against Caribou Island access change

The vote to veto was unanimous

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted against a petition that would have changed an access point on Caribou Island in Skilak Lake during their Tuesday meeting after several island residents testified in opposition to the change.

The petition to vacate, which was requested by Peggy and Michael Clements of Sterling, would have replaced a portion of a 100-foot-wide right of way with a 30-foot right of way about 70 feet east of the original location.

According to the petition to vacate, the Clements were interested in moving the access point because other people on the island were mistaking part of their property for the right of way, which they say has deteriorated the bank forest floor of their property.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission voted in support of the petition 8-3. By the time the petition made it before the assembly, nearly 50 pages of public comment had been submitted on the issue, most of which were in opposition to the change.

Among other things, those in opposition said that the area where the easement would be relocated is shallow and rocky and would offer boats little to no protection from strong winds. Additionally, people said it would be difficult for people to stage and transport materials into Caribou Island’s interior properties because of a steep and undeveloped grade separating the shore from the interior.

Petitioner Michael Clements, who testified before the assembly on Wednesday, said that most of the comments in opposition to the change were submitted by people who live on other parts of the island and that he offered to develop the proposed easement.

Other comments raised concerns about the equity of moving a decades-old easement that many other people on the island rely on regularly. This concern was echoed by members of the assembly, which voted unanimously to veto the planning commission’s vote in support of the petition.

Assembly Member Jesse Bjorkman, of Nikiski, said that the borough should protect public property such as rights of way the same as they would private property.

“We’ve had, you know, a number of these instances come up where the same landowner now owns property on both sides of a right of way that’s used … and they seek to extinguish access or severely diminish access and that’s troublesome to me,” Bjorkman said. “I don’t think that’s OK.”

The vote to veto was unanimous.

The assembly’s full meeting can be viewed on the borough’s website.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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