Kenai council manages land

At their Wednesday meeting the Kenai City Council held two closed executive sessions about purchases of city land.

One was an ongoing issue — the sale of the bowling alley to Anchorage businessman Dean You, begun by the council in September but delayed by financial difficulties. The other is a new purchase offer of about four acres of land in the undeveloped strip between Lawton Drive and the Kenai Spur Highway.

The 16.5-acre city-owned Lawton strip has been a subject of debate since 1985. Various efforts to develop it have been defeated by opponents from the neighborhood to the south along Lawton Drive, who say the strip serves as a buffer against the noise and light of the Kenai Spur Highway and Walmart to the north.

Dr. Jeremy Sorhus of River City Dental is hoping to relocate his practice — presently in an office complex across the street from the Kenai Courthouse — to Lawton Drive. He made an offer to the city for about 4 acres in the wooded eastern portion of the Lawton strip, between the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska and the Kenai Field of Flowers.

Kenai City Manager Rick Koch said his office got the offer around Sept. 30 and delayed presenting it to the council because of the Oct. 4 municipal election. Two new council members were sworn in at the previous council meeting on Oct. 19.

Making his case to the council during the public comment section of the meeting, Sorhus said the location near Kenai Central High School would be convenient place for his office.

“We have a large number of patients that attend both Kenai Central High School and Kenai Middle School,” Sorhus said. “A lot of these patients visit us throughout the day and obviously have to take time off school, have to wait for parents to come, especially on weather-inclement days. We’re looking to try and find a place closer to the high school so kids will miss less time off school and have safer transportation to school.”

Sorhus also mentioned the nearby field itself as a potential benefit to River City Dental in terms of the effect it could have on patients.

“If you can kind of imagine with me, sitting in the dental chair, a high-anxiety patient in a very comfortable, relaxed atmosphere with an open bay window looking across the wildflowers — what a serene, relaxing environment that would be,” Sorhus said. “Surrounded by trees, keeping most of the natural vegetation in there … It’s the opposite side of the street as the (sign saying) ‘Welcome to Kenai — City with a future, village with a past.’ This is part of what I envision as the grand entrance to Kenai.”

A sale of the city-owned former AlaskaLanes bowling alley to Anchorage businessman Dean You has been pending since the council unanimously voted Sept. 21 to sell the defunct bowling alley — given to the city in a debt settlement — to You for a minimum of $525,000.

The text of the sales ordinance states that You intends to “reopen at least part of the structure as a bowling alley.”

The sale has yet to close because You is seeking financing. Kenai Bowling advocate Charlotte Yamada spoke in support of You at the council’s Oct. 5 meeting.

“If there are any decisions to be made in the near future, I’d encourage you to perhaps give leeway and maybe give these guys who the proposal now belongs to a little bit better process,” Yamada said.

In addition to holding two closed land discussions Wednesday, the council unanimously adopted two resolutions. One stated Kenai’s capital project priorities, and the other opposes a Kenai Peninsula Borough ordinance that would create a permanent motor vehicle registration for vehicles more than eight years old.

 

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

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