Kenai council discusses land sales; delays comprehensive plan introduction

On its Wednesday meeting agenda the Kenai City Council had one ordinance, one resolution and three closed-door executive sessions regarding deals for the city to buy and sell land from or to individuals.

In its 14 regular meetings to date in 2016, the Kenai council has held 12 executive sessions, 10 of them regarding buying or selling land. On Wednesday, those land decisions included prospective purchases of three private properties by the city and an offer to buy a four-story house the city owns on the Kenai River’s south beach.

City administrators intend to offer to buy two vacant lots near the Twin City Raceway, totalling 2.27 acres, from Douglas Cofer. The lots are near a city-owned property on the Kenai Spur Highway, which Kenai City Manager Rick Koch said contains municipal water wells. The purchase is intended “for the purposes of wellhead protection,” according to the meeting agenda item.

“One of these two properties is located within 200 feet of a wellhead,” Koch said. “A minimum of 200 feet for a Class A water well is good practice to be able to control. This would keep someone from developing that property in a manner in which there could be a spill or something.”

The Kenai Peninsula Borough has assessed Cofer’s two lots at a total of $6,400.

The city council also gave Koch permission to negotiate the purchase of an 80-acre wooded lot bordering the Kenai Municipal Airport, north of its float plane basin. The land is owned by Myrna Roche, whose address, according to borough records, is in Glendale, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix.

“I think it has value to the airport mostly as a buffer area, more than anything,” Koch said of the property, assessed by the borough at a value of $47,000. “… It could be (a buffer against) noise, it could be sight thing. It’s adjacent to the airport and it’s not a lot of money, so I think it makes sense.”

Koch said he had thought of buying the property about two years ago, but demands for a higher price made the deal fall through. He said he had recently been contacted about the purchase by a local real estate firm representing Roche’s family, and was reopening negotiations.

A third land sale proposition deals with a multi-million dollar house Kenai has owned since September 2015. As part of a deal to buy land needed for its South Beach access road, Kenai bought a four-story house, borough-assessed at just over $1.4 million. Having built the access road in time to give this summer’s dipnetters a route to the beach on the south side, the city has been attempting to sell the house to recover funds needed to pave the gravel road.

After an executive session to discuss an offer made on the house, Koch said he’d recommended that the council reject the offer, and that they’d voted in agreement.

In regular session, the council also voted to not to introduce an ordinance that would have put the Kenai comprehensive plan up for a final vote at the next meeting on August 3. The comprehensive plan, a controversial land-use document, was revised this year and requires the council’s approval to become official.

Council member Bob Molloy moved successfully to not introduce the ordinance at this meeting in order to allow its introduction at the next meeting, putting it up for the council’s vote on August 17. At a July 13 Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Kenai City Planner Matt Kelley had announced his intent to have the plan voted on at the August 17 meeting, and Molloy said he favored holding the vote on the announced date. If introduced Wednesday, the comprehensive vote would have been on August 3 instead.

Molloy’s motion passed with opposing votes from council member Henry Knackstedt and Kenai Mayor Pat Porter. Council member Brian Gabriel was absent from the meeting.

The one ordinance on the council’s agenda passed unanimously and transferred $504,000 from the general fund to previously budgeted capital projects in the municipal roadways, recreation center, parks and senior center capital improvement funds. The resolution was removed the agenda by Mike Boyle, the council member who introduced it. It would have urged the Alaska

Legislature “to pass all necessary fiscal legislation required to provide for a fair, balanced and sustainable state budget,” but was rendered irrelevant because the Legislature adjourned its special session on July 18.


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