Kenai sees changes looming

Clarion file photo In this 2011 file photo, a drilling rig operating for Buccaneer Energy stands in the spruce forest along Marathon Road in Kenai. The city recently approved a transfer of the lease it had signed with the now-bankrupt company.

A municipal reaction to state-level marijuana legislation and the city’s purchasing policy were part of a discussion on long term planning during the Kenai City Council’s Wednesday meeting.

Mayor Pat Porter suggested a town hall meeting for Kenai residents to speak their views on how legalized marijuana should be regulated in Kenai. The ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, which passed in the November mid-term election, will “allow a local government to prohibit the operation of marijuana-related entities” by passing ordinances to “cover the time, place, manner, and registration of a marijuana entity’s operations,” according to the text of the initiative. Porter said that Kenai should begin thinking of such regulation.

City Attorney Scott Bloom said he had recently attended a meeting of the Alaska Municipal Attorney’s Association, where three sessions addressed marijuana legislation. Although Bloom confirmed that the initiative allows for local control options, he said, “For us to have our own regulatory scheme is probably going to be difficult.”

Vice Mayor Ryan Marquis agreed.

“The state’s going to have the funds and expertise and everything needed to research and come up with regulations,” Marquis said. “I don’t see the city itself being able to do that effectively. I think it would be premature to enact our own legislation before we see what that landscape’s going to look like.“

Although creating a city regulatory body might be difficult, Council member Bob Malloy said that zoning and permitting could be powerful tools for the city to control marijuana production, sale, and advertising. He agreed that city regulation would be premature in the absence of state regulation.

“I’m happy to wait,” Porter said, “but I think we need to listen to our citizens in the next few months, and then talk about it again, in maybe March or April, when we can see where our (state) legislature is going on it.”

One immediate matter on the agenda was the transfer of leased city land from its previous lessee, bankrupt oil and gas company Buccaneer Energy Ltd., to AIX Energy, Inc. which bought Buccaneer’s Alaska assets in November. The leased land consists of two locations on the property of the Kenai Airport, developed by Buccaneer into natural gas facilities. The Council approved the transfer of the land lease from Buccaneer to AIX, with conditions recommended by Bloom.

“One agreement that has not yet been reconciled through the bankruptcy is that, when Buccaneer did seismic testing in the city, the city granted permission to do that with the condition that it (the city) be granted access to all seismic data for a period of ten years,” Bloom said. “It’s my request that these reassignments … be given with the condition that AIX honor the city’s right to access that data.”

Bloom’s condition was amended to the leases of both properties, which were then unanimously passed by the council.

The Council passed two ordinances and three resolutions. These included the transfer of additional state funds to the Kenai Senior Center, a contract for delivery of chemicals to the city’s waste-water treatment plant given to Illinois-based chemical company Univar Inc., the vacating of unused right-of-ways in the to-be-developed Shoreline Heights subdivision, an amendment to the city’s flexible benefits health-care plan, and an agreement to contract the Kenai-based architecture firm K+A Design studios for conceptual plans to upgrade the Kenai Multipurpose Facility. The speculative upgrades include locker rooms, a covered turf field, additional parking, a new entryway, and a repositioning of the store.

With new council member Henry Knackstedt on board after the October municipal election, Porter altered the committee liaison nominations after consulting with the council. The council last changed their committee liaison assignments three years ago, council member Bob Molloy said.

Molloy was named liaison for the Council of Aging after previously serving as the Harbor Commission liaison.

Council member Brian Gabriel moved from the Airport Commission to the Harbor Commission.

Council member Tim Navarre was named to the Airport Commission after he spent his first three years as liaison to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Knackstedt, who was a Planning and Zoning Commission member prior to his election to council, was nominated liaison for that commission.

Marquis moved from the Council of Aging to liaison of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Council member Terry Bookey was appointed to the library commission.

Porter said the council might have to consider “sun setting” the library commission, who have had a difficult time finding enough commission members and agenda items to regularly hold meetings.

Molloy said the commission has not had many agenda items after the library renovation was completed in 2012.

Porter will continue as liaison to the Beautification Committee and Mini-Grant Steering Committee.

 

Dan Balmer contributed information to this report Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com

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