Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion Seagulls flock to where participants in the personal use dipnet fishery fish on the north beach of the Kenai River on July 10, 2016 in Kenai, Alaska.

Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion Seagulls flock to where participants in the personal use dipnet fishery fish on the north beach of the Kenai River on July 10, 2016 in Kenai, Alaska.

Borough releases draft comprehensive plan

Economic opportunity, freedom, natural resources, and strong community connections are among the things Kenai Peninsula residents value most about the area, according to the first draft of the borough’s new comprehensive plan.

The borough released the first draft of its updated Kenai Peninsula Borough Comprehensive Plan on Dec. 15, summarizing nearly a year of polling public opinion and researching the conditions in the borough. Along with identifying key values for the residents, the plan identifies a number of objectives to grow the peninsula’s industries, guide land use policies, expand infrastructure for quality of life and improve transportation, among other goals.

“Based on the many hundreds of conversations that went into the creation of this draft plan, there is a strong sense that borough residents are ready to move energetically and collaboratively into the next chapter of borough history,” the plan states. “There is a shared awareness of new economic realities, such as decreased state funding, and motivation to use the shift in resources and source of revenue to create new, more economically resilient Kenai Peninsula.”

Comprehensive plans help inform planning, funding and development efforts over their planned life. The borough last updated its comprehensive plan in 2005, intending it to end in 2015. In October 2016, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly appropriated $275,000 to pay a consultant to update the plan, intended to cover the next two decades.

Cities and boroughs in Alaska are required to have comprehensive plans. The consultants from Agnew Beck, the firm the borough hired to complete the comprehensive plan, included some of the elements of the 2005 plan in the 2018 update as well as new information. Several major changes highlight the amount of time that has passed — the 2005 plan includes oil companies that have long since withdrawn from Cook Inlet and does not mention any of the concerns about king salmon population sustainability in the sportfishing industry.

The plan identifies various industries to focus on as part of growing the peninsula’s economy, such as agriculture and mariculture. It includes potential obstacles, such as climate change and heavy regulation, and identifies goals like partnering with the school district to teach students about local farming and working with the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District on developing the mariculture industry.

Commercial fishing, tourism, mining and sportfishing all have their own sets of goals in the plan as well. One of the key points in the plan is to balance resource extraction-based industries with protecting the environment.

“Throughout the planning process, a major theme of discussion has been attempting to find a balance between protecting the natural assets that are central to life and work in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and creating opportunities to take advantage of these assets and allow for future growth and prosperity,” the plan states. “Many of the policies laid out in this plan address the need to find and sustain this balance over the 20 years.”

Land use is another highlighted issue. More than 87 percent of the land in the borough is publicly owned, significantly more than in other states. While the public ownership has preserved many of the area’s ecosystems and access to wilderness, it can also hamper some kinds of access and development, the plan notes.

Quality of life issues, including health, housing, historic preservation and energy infrastructure, are included, as are enhancing transportation infrastructure and exploring public transit options. The final section highlights the need for vocational training in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and for a sustainable fiscal plan for the borough in the future.

During phone surveys, the researchers found there was little support for any taxes beyond some support for local alcohol and tobacco taxes. They suggested refining the proposed bed tax before the borough assembly to address uncertainty concerns, and to ask for public input on how to reduce the borough budget and improve services.

The consultants plan to refine the plan this winter before finalizing it in summer 2018. First, they are seeking public feedback through Jan. 31, 2018. It will be presented to the borough’s Planning Commission for support, followed by the assembly, and the public can testify at both hearings as well.

“Following formal adoption, the new Kenai Peninsula Borough Comprehensive Plan will replace the current plan adopted in 2005, and guide future decisions and actions by the Borough,” the plan states.

Copies of the plan are available on the borough’s website or in paper at the borough administration building in Soldotna or at the annexes in Seward and Homer. Comments can be submitted to Borough Planner Bruce Wall or Agnew Beck Project Manager Shelly Wade, emailed to comments@kpb.compplan.com or mailed to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Department at 144 North Binkley Street, Soldotna, Alaska.

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

Two people walk their dog across Bishop’s Beach on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Two people walk their dog across Bishop’s Beach on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

In this November 2016 photo, the Chugach Mountains loom high above Monroe Street in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

In this November 2016 photo, the Chugach Mountains loom high above Monroe Street in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Two people walk their dog across Bishop’s Beach on Dec. 3, 2016 in Homer. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Two people walk their dog across Bishop’s Beach on Dec. 3, 2016 in Homer. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

In this November 2016 photo, the Chugach Mountains loom high above Monroe Street in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

In this November 2016 photo, the Chugach Mountains loom high above Monroe Street in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

More in News

The Homer Spit stretching into Kachemak Bay is seen here on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homer woman indicted over seaplane incident

Marian Tillion Beck was indicted on charges of negligent operation of a vessel and attempted interference with the navigation of a sea plane

Soldotna High School can be seen in this Sept. 2, 2021, photo, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion file)
‘Little Sweethearts’ family dance to debut at SoHi

The event will be hosted by SoHi’s freshmen student council

Soldotna City Council members interview city manager applicant Elke Doom (on screen) during a special city council meeting on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Doom, Bower named finalists for Soldotna manager gig

The two will visit Soldotna for in-person meetings on Feb. 7 and 13, respectively

The northern fur seal rescued by Alaska SeaLife Center staff is seen on Jan. 31, 2023, at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kaiti Grant/Alaska SeaLife Center)
Northern fur seal pup admitted to SeaLife Center rescue program

The pup was reported by Sitka residents using the center’s 24-hour stranding hotline

The Kenai Community Library children’s section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Literary competition returns to local schools

Battle of the Books aims to instill in kids a love of reading

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
Climate activists hold a rally outside the Alaska State Capitol Friday afternoon in advocacy for legislative action to improve Alaska’s renewable energy development and future sustainability.
Climate activists hold rally near the Capitol

Statewide organizations advocate for legislative action

Shanon Davis, the executive director of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, hands out candy during the Sweeny’s St. Patrick’s Parade in Soldotna on March 17, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Davis to step down as Soldotna chamber head

Davis oversaw the implementation of Soldotna’s “Holding Our Own,” shop local program

Golden-yellow birch trees and spruce frame a view of Aurora Lagoon and Portlock Glacier from a trail in the Cottonwood-Eastland Unit of Kachemak Bay State Park off East End Road on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong)
State parks advisory boards accepting applictions

Alaska State Park advisory boards provide state park managers with recommendations on management issues

Most Read