The Kenai waterfront can be seen from Old Town Kenai on April 27, 2018, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file)

The Kenai waterfront can be seen from Old Town Kenai on April 27, 2018, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file)

Kenai council postpones approval of waterfront study contract

The move was to give newly elected members more time to thoroughly acquaint themselves with the project.

Kenai will have to wait a bit longer to start assessing the feasibility of developing its waterfront area.

The Kenai City Council voted Wednesday to postpone a contract award for the study in order to give newly elected members more time to thoroughly acquaint themselves with the project.

The legislation, if approved, would award an agreement of just under $95,000 to McKinley Research Group, LLC for the Kenai Waterfront Redevelopment Assessment and Feasibility study. The city also received bids from PDC, A Division of RESPEC Company LLC and Agnew :: Beck. The Kenai City Council approved $95,000 for a feasibility study during their Sept. 1 meeting.

The project, first identified as a priority in the city’s “Imagine Kenai 2030” comprehensive plan, was formally put up for consideration earlier this year, with Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander describing the project area as “untapped potential.” The council held a public work session to discuss the project with stakeholders in August, where owners of property in or near the project area shared their perspectives.

The project looks to revitalize a section of property along Bridge Access Road from Millennium Square to the city dock. Proposed incentive programs described by city documents include, in addition to waterfront revitalization, exempting economic developments from city property tax, which the plan says would incentivize capital investment, and exempting depreciating properties from city tax, which would encourage the development of deteriorating buildings.

Council member James Baisden, who took his seat on the council Wednesday, requested that the council postpone a vote on the legislation so that he could better familiarize himself with the details of the project.

“I just can’t articulate right now why I would support it,” Baisden said. “I want to get a little bit more information.”

Baisden voiced concerns about whether the city was telling private property owners in the project area what the city wants to do with the land, which were echoed by some other council members.

Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank, who filled in for Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander during Wednesday’s council meeting, said a priority of the study would be to engage the community to develop a “core concept” for the project.

“The administration is not proposing what that development down there should look like,” Eubank said. “It is absolutely our intent that this consultant engage with the community to develop what the community wants that area to look like.”

According to official meeting minutes from that work session, eight members of the public spoke about the project. Of those, six testified in support of developing the waterfront while the other two did not specifically address the redevelopment project. Of the six who spoke in favor, one person owned property in the project area and two said they owned property adjacent to the project area.

Wednesday’s full meeting of the Kenai City Council can be viewed on the City of Kenai’s YouTube channel.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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