Soldotna’s Planning and Zoning Commission has opposed modifying city code to allow for wider than 24-foot driveways within city limits, but this time around the choice is not up to them.
On Jan. 14, the city council will incorporate the commission’s recommendation into their decision of whether or not enact an ordinance that would increase the maximum driveway width to 30 feet.
“(Twenty-four feet wide) is widely accepted and serves a valid purpose,” said City Planner John Czarnezki during the commission’s Dec. 17 meeting.
Czarnezki said other municipalities, such as Wasilla and Palmer, prefer the 24-foot maximum in relation to pedestrian refuge, safe vehicle movement and street maintenance. The larger the driveway, the more difficult it is to clear snow and to get a vehicle behind it and push it out of the way, he said.
However, in a study by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program these issues depended on other factors such as street layout, pedestrian movement and traffic volume, Czarnezki said.
“It’s not always a one-size-fits-all for every community,” Czarnezki said.
Reports from City Engineer Kyle Kornelis and Maintenance Manager Scott Sunberg show maintenance cost and maintenance time would increase if driveway widths were to be expanded, Czarnezki said.
Commission Chair Colleen Denbrock said the commission has been examining driveway width for the past two years and she still hasn’t seen sufficient evidence in support of modifying city code.
Commissioner David Hutchings said maintenance costs vary between winters depending on how much snow the city receives. He said he sees an issue in that properties with three cars have to park a third in the right of ways.
“Ninety percent of people are not going to go for the variance,” Hutchings said. “Ninety percent of people are going to be happy with a 24-foot driveway.”
Resident Jerry Farrington began the push for expansion in 2012. He has taken his request for an extra six feet to the council, Board of Adjustment and the commission, where it has been consistently turned down. He said the persistence is due to a matter of “safety and convenience.”
Council member Linda Murphy proposed the ordinance that will go before the council in January. She said she was disappointed in the commission’s most recent decision to deny the variance.
In addition to Farrington’s two driveway variance requests, the city has received 22 other applications for variances since 2008. Nineteen of them were approved including five so far this year, Czarnezki said.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at email@example.com.