Borough forms gravel pit working group

A group of local government officials, members of the public and gravel pit operators will start gathering to overhaul borough laws on material extraction sites.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly at its Tuesday meeting approved the formation of a work group at to work on updates to the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s regulations on gravel pits. The group of eight — which will include two borough assembly members, two members of the public, two members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission and two material site industry members — will work on recommendations to present to the assembly, administration and Planning Commission by June 5.

The assembly will appoint the two members to serve on the work group, and the rest will be appointed by the mayor, according to the resolution establishing the work group.

A memo dated Jan. 5 from Borough Planning Director Max Best to the assembly states that the work group would consider the current material site permit process and consider whether changes should be made.

“Since (2006) the borough population has increased as has the number of material sites,” he wrote. “Numerous provisions in the material site ordinance can be clarified for the operators, public, staff and the Planning Commission. Also, when a material site permit is issued, members of the public have expressed concerns about dust, noise, water and other negative secondary impacts associated with material sites.”

The borough Planning Department’s has been working on revisions to the borough code regulating gravel pits for nearly a year, Best said during the assembly’s Lands Committee meeting Tuesday.

The code was last update in 2006, said Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce during the meeting. The revision added some permitting requirements and procedures for operators, in part driven by concerns from residents who lived near gravel pit sites. In the borough outside the cities, there are few siting restrictions for gravel pits because there is no broad zoning code for residential or industrial areas. Many homeowners in the borough live a few doors down from a gravel pit. When the Planning Commission considers approval for the conditional use permits gravel pit owners need before they can start operating, neighbors frequently testify at meetings to object or express concerns to the Planning Department staff about impacts on property value, neighborhood character and traffic safety, among other concerns.

In answer to a question from Assembly Member Willy Dunne, Best said there would not be any budget associated with the work group, as it will be composed of volunteers.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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