Kenai to vote on creating new airport zone, Spur Highway commercial property

A plan by Kenai city administration would create a new zoning designation for the Kenai airport and shift some land along the Kenai Spur Highway to commercial use.

The plan, unanimously recommended to the city council by the airport commission on Thursday night, would create a new zone — “airport light industrial” — to replace the “conservation” zone that presently covers the Kenai Municipal Airport. The rezoning plan was created by city administrators and members of the Airport Commission and Planning and Zoning Commission during worksessions on Nov. 12, 2015 and Jan. 13, 2016.

Almost all the conservation-zoned land will become airport light industrial. The new zone would be open to airport-related uses such as hangars, aircraft sales and repair facilities, and aviation-related manufacturing and storage. Some commercial uses would be allowed with permission from the Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission. Kenai City Planner Matt Kelley said the criteria for uses of the new zone would be service to the airport.

“(A manufacturing facility in the airport light industrial zone) would have to be something to do with airport manufacturing, not manufacturing in general,” Kelley said. “… Any new use has to be aviation-compatible. It has to serve the airport in some way. A restaurant for example, serves passengers, pilots, and the general public. A hotel could do that. But an office building wouldn’t, necessarily.”

This criteria comes with the airport-maintaining grants Kenai gets from the Federal Aviation Administration, which require Kenai to maintain a boundary — known as the airport reserve — within which land must dedicated to directly airport-related use. Some exceptions exist: the Kenai Fabric Center, Ron’s Rent-it Center, and the Bargain Basement thrift store are all within the airport reserve. The rezoning would not change the reserve boundary. Doing so would require approval from the FAA.

Two pieces of land will retain the conservation label. The property surrounding the stream that crosses the Spur Highway directly east of the Kenai Walmart will remain a conservation zone because the stream is rearing habitat for anadromous fish.

Another property at the intersection of First and Floatplane Roads — currently zoned suburban residential — will become conservation land because of its proximity to the Kenai cemetery.

Kelley said this land would be reserved for cemetery expansion.

Another currently conversation-zoned area would change to a different designation. The strip of land between the Spur Highway and Lawton Drive, bounded on the east by Rogers Road and by Walker Lane on the west is presently occupied by a small woods and the Kenai Field of Flowers.

This land and a smaller nearby strip on the north side of the Spur Highway would change from conservation to the general commercial zone.

Kenai acquired the airport land from the federal government in 1963.

At that time, the property extended south to the Cook Inlet bluffs. The city applied the conservation zoning to some of this land. Kelley said that in this instance, the word had a different connotation than the usual modern meaning of ecological conservation.

“The original intent was that it was conserved for airport use, and airport expansion was the idea,” Kelley said.

In the years since 1963, much of the original airport land has been sold or leased for revenue deposited in the city’s airport fund, and subsequently rezoned for other purposes.

Although the property has shrunk, the conservation zone label has remained on land still used by the airport. Kelley said the proposed zoning change was meant to “move away from the idea that it was reserved for environmental use, and more for airport use.”

Having been approved by the airport commission, Kelley recommended in a memo that the rezone be voted on by planning and zoning commissioners on Feb. 24.

With their approval, it will come before the city council for a public hearing and final vote at a future meeting.

 

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

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