Kenai comprehensive plan vote postponed

The Kenai City Council postponed a vote on its updated comprehensive plan at its meeting Wednesday. It will now have a public hearing and vote at the Sept. 7 council meeting.

State law requires boroughs to maintain and regularly update comprehensive plan documents that establish a legal foundation for land-use decisions. The Kenai Peninsula Borough delegated Kenai’s comprehensive plan to the city, subject to borough assembly approval. The ordinance debated Wednesday would have offered for borough approval the comprehensive plan update that Kenai commissioners and administrators have been working on since January 2016.

The update, prepared by planning consultant Elizabeth Benson of Benson Planning Associates and entitled “Imagine Kenai 2030,” is now being held for city council approval after passing through four town hall meetings and two planning and zoning work sessions.

The Kenai City Council and administration last attempted a comprehensive plan update in 2013. That plan proved controversial because its updated map of land use designations — the legal categories that underlie zoning decisions — created “mixed use” designations that would allow a mix of commercial establishments and residences to exist in the same area. Critics of the plan said the mixed use designations it would create along the Kenai Spur Highway promoted sprawling commercialization in existing residential areas.

The 2013 plan was passed by the council but rejected in a ballot measure by a 580 to 221 vote.

On Wednesday there were no public comments made on the draft plan, and council discussion focused on the informational chapters of the plan rather than land use designations.

The draft under discussion was amended by city administrators according to recommendations made by council members in an Aug. 9 work session.

Changes listed in a memo by Kenai City Planner Matt Kelley included additions to informational sections and an edit to the land use designations that would change five lots along First Avenue from a general commercial to a mixed use land designation.

“These subject lots are zoned General Commercial and are (a mix) of residents and commercial uses,” Kelley wrote in the memo. “…The Mixed Use Land Use designation would be appropriate for these 5 lots, considering their location along First Avenue.”

An email to Kelley from the owners of three of the lots, Mark and Nancy Wiles, requested the change and stated the area includes both homes and a business, Moncla Drilling Operations. The Wiles wrote that they’d requested the same designation change in the failed 2013 plan.

Council member Terry Bookey moved to postpone further discussion and a vote on the plan to the council’s next meeting and the council unanimously agreed.

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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