An ordinance establishing rules and standards for residents who wish to create gated communities and private streets within the borough was passed by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly last Tuesday, but will be reconsidered at next week’s assembly meeting.
Under the ordinance, residents and property developers could apply to set up a private street or subdivision. The ordinance lays out how they can accomplish that and the rules they need to follow. The ordinance includes new codes for developments, such as requiring that property owners create a turnaround for cars at the gate. Property owners would also be required to maintain the roadway themselves and ensure that emergency services have access to the area.
Currently, there are no designated standards, requirements or procedures to create subdivisions, private streets or gated communities in borough code, according to the ordinance.
The ordinance’s goal is to establish policies and guidance that “minimize land use conflicts, maintain property values, protect natural systems and support individual land use freedoms.”
Versions of the ordinance have been on and off the assembly agenda since October 2019, with the assembly supporting the measure five to four at the April 21 meeting. Assembly members Brent Johnson, Hal Smalley, Willy Dunne and Kelly Cooper opposed the ordinance.
Some private communities already exist within the borough, including in the Kenai Keys area. Mayor Charlie Pierce said that subdivision has existed for “15 to 20 years now,” and that emergency responders have access to the area. Pierce argued for the ordinance, and said he was “really surprised to see there was so much effort to block” the measure.
“You’re giving residents in the borough another level of added protection,” Pierce said.
Pierce said he thinks the ordinance is long overdue. However, other assembly members shared concerns about public property rights, and losing access to publicly owned roads — which may have cultural and historical significance to residents in the area — to developers.
Cooper said she based her vote on the “overwhelming response from folks” in her district.
Dunne, who has asked that the ordinance be reconsidered at Tuesday’s meeting, said the ordinance was “special interest legislation” and that “converting public property to private right of ways is knocking people out.”
Many borough roads would become private under this ordinance and many of those are walking paths and social trails,” Dunne said. “… I’m very opposed to taking the rights away from the public to use public property.”
Johnson, who initially spoke in support of the ordinance, said it was a “win win” for the borough. He said property values could rise in private subdivisions and the borough could have fewer roadways to maintain. After hearing other comments from Dunne and Cooper, Johnson said he would oppose the ordinance.
“Dunne is right and swinging my vote,” Johnson said. “It is a public right of way and the public is losing access to that right of way.”
The ordinance will be discussed again at Tuesday’s assembly meeting, and the public will have the opportunity to comment. The public will not be allowed to attend the meeting in person due to social distancing mandates imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the public can attend virtually. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. May 5 and residents can call or listen in through Zoom, using Meeting ID:128 871 931.