Soldotna Director of Economic Development and Planning John Czarnezki describes a plan for more parking in downtown Soldotna during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna Director of Economic Development and Planning John Czarnezki describes a plan for more parking in downtown Soldotna during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Parking lot would bring 70 spaces to downtown Soldotna

The Soldotna City Council greenlighted Wednesday the execution of a lease agreement between the city and the Aspen Hotel

Downtown Soldotna would be able to accommodate 70 more parked cars under a plan to turn the vacant lot in front of the Aspen Hotel into a parking lot. The Soldotna City Council authorized during its Wednesday night meeting the execution of a lease agreement between the city and the Aspen Hotel.

A conceptual plan of the lot shows expanded greenspace in the area immediately in front of the hotel. A pedestrian path would connect the Aspen Hotel to the Sterling Highway and a landscaped center island. Greenery throughout the new lot would include 21 quaking aspen, nine snowy mountain ash and five transplanted cherry trees. Those are in addition to eight James MacFarlane lilac shrubs and four other types of trees.

“This represents many months of work and back-and-forth to bring forward something that we feel is a win for, hopefully, the landowners, the city and the community in general,” Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen said Wednesday.

The Soldotna City Council approved as part of its fiscal year 2023 budget $250,000 for the construction of a parking lot in downtown Soldotna. Under the proposed agreement, the City of Soldotna would take care of maintenance and upkeep of the lot.

Soldotna Director of Economic Development and Planning John Czarnezki told council members Wednesday that the capacity of the lot is after optimization for greenspace, and could accommodate small events such as farmer’s markets. The owner of the Aspen Hotel, Czarnezki said, was receptive to the idea of creating a more attractive landscape.

Council member Dave Carey was one of multiple council members to voice his support for the lot.

“This will help, certainly those immediate commercial interests, but also the whole city in terms of we need better places for people to park,” Carey said. “This will greatly help others in that peripheral area that may find that sometimes people use their area to park. … I think it shows a proactiveness on the part of the city.”

Under the current iteration of the agreement, the City of Soldotna would lease the lot for $1 per year, for 20 years from the Aspen Hotel. If the Aspen Hotel needed to pull out of the agreement in the next 20 years, the city would be reimbursed for a portion of the cost. The city will also cover property taxes on the lot parcels.

Czarnezki said Thursday that the City of Soldotna also owns the lot behind Odie’s Deli, which is currently used for Soldotna Creek Park event parking. The city agreed to hold the lot while the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce considered sites for a new visitor center. That agreement has since expired, Czarnezki said, and the lot is now being incorporated into the city’s riverfront planning process.

The city applied last year for $360,000 in federal grant money for planning of a project that would create a new city “main street” that would run parallel to the Kenai River. The project would address about 85 acres of land running along the Kenai River from Soldotna Creek Park to the Sterling Highway Bridge.

Wednesday’s meeting of the Soldotna City Council can be streamed on the city’s website at soldotna.org.

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

Snow collects in a lot near the Aspen Hotel on Thursday, March 10, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. The area will be the site of a new parking lot planned by the City of Soldotna. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Snow collects in a lot near the Aspen Hotel on Thursday, March 10, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. The area will be the site of a new parking lot planned by the City of Soldotna. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

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