The Kenai Comprehensive Plan that voters rejected in a 2013 ballot proposal will be used as the draft for an upcoming comprehensive plan revision.
After Kenai City Manager Rick Koch proposed revising the plan during his report at their Jan. 6 meeting, council member Henry Knackstedt moved to vote on whether to allow the Planning and Zoning Commission to begin work on revising the plan, starting from the final draft of the rejected 2013 plan. The council voted in favor, with council members Mike Boyle and Bob Molloy voting against it. Council member Terry Bookey was absent during the vote.
The comprehensive plan is a document meant to provide a foundation for the city’s land use decisions by outlining basic economic goals. Because of the failure of the 2013 plan, Kenai currently uses a plan from 2003. The 2013 plan’s creation cost more than $100,000 and involved 24 public work sessions and 152 comments received from Kenai residents. Much of the commentary at public meetings came from critical residents of the MAPS subdivision — an acronym designating Magic and Aliak Drive, Princess Street, and the Spur Highway — who objected to a proposed change in the land use conditions of their area. Another objection was that the plan promoted developmental sprawl.
Council debate focused on whether the revision could be based on the rejected plan and whether it was appropriate to hold a vote on the revision outside of the public hearing portion of the meeting, when the council normally votes on issues after introducing them with public notice.
“I certainly believe it’s acceptable to start work on the comprehensive plan,” said Boyle, who in 2013 had been the only council member to vote against approving the plan. “However, that document that’s being proposed to use as a draft was very handily rejected by the citizens in the voting booth. So I don’t think it’s proper that the 2013 proposal be used as a draft for this. I think this plan needs to be started over anew.”
Kenai voters rejected the plan by a 580 to 221 vote. Council member Tim Navarre said using the 2013 plan as a draft would be acceptable because “the council voted in support of that document before the voters voted it down.”
“It went through a long process,” Navarre said. “This process does not not allow changes to that document where there might have been concerns. … If there are concerns they can be better identified under the 2013 plan than starting over. And people would be using the 2013 plan anyway to bring things into it. So I hope we don’t throw away all the consultant fees and everything that was used to create this document. The voters didn’t vote for a line-item veto.”
Navarre referred specifically to chapters on Native culture, written for in the 2013 plan and not included in the 2003 plan, as examples of work he would like to preserve.
Kenai Mayor Pat Porter supported beginning revision with the 2013 plan, saying that doing so would “start the process anew.”
“The council is new, and we have a lot of other citizens in this community,” Porter said. “I don’t think we’re doing anything that’s wrong. If it’s wrong, we wouldn’t be doing it.”
Molloy said that introducing the plan should have been a separate agenda item with a “noticed public discussion about proceeding forward, not something thrown in quick that isn’t published that people don’t know about on our agenda.”
Molloy moved to postpone the vote to an agenda item at the council’s next meeting on Jan. 20. Postponement failed, with council members Knackstedt, Navarre, Brian Gabriel, and Porter voting against it.
Molloy said he was also concerned about starting a revision process without having first budgeted money for it, which he said would be needed for hiring professional consultants. He advocated revisiting the issue when the council begins budgeting for next fiscal year.
“I don’t see this happening without budgetary resources,” Molloy said. “To me, that means kind of a rubber stamp on some changes to an existing document, rather than a real process. I think we need our budget to address that.”
When asked by Porter, Koch said that voting for the planning and zoning commission to begin revising would not preclude more thorough budgeted revisions in the future.
Reach Ben Boettger at firstname.lastname@example.org.