Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Department The highlighted property at the corner of Ciechanski Road and Virginia Drive is a gravel pit owned by Sean Cude. Property owners in the Diamond Willow-Fairfield subdivision have petitioned the borough for a local option zoning district that would change the rural district to single-residential that requires all parcels to be subdivided into within 50 percent of the mathmatical mean of each pacel in the district.

Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Department The highlighted property at the corner of Ciechanski Road and Virginia Drive is a gravel pit owned by Sean Cude. Property owners in the Diamond Willow-Fairfield subdivision have petitioned the borough for a local option zoning district that would change the rural district to single-residential that requires all parcels to be subdivided into within 50 percent of the mathmatical mean of each pacel in the district.

Pit burdens neighborhood

  • Thursday, November 27, 2014 10:39pm
  • News

After extensive discussion, the Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly postponed an ordinance that delayed the rezoning of a Kalifornsky neighborhood to address a gravel pit that area residents say have affected their quality of life.

Property owners in the Diamond Willow-Fairfield subdivision off Ciechanski Road who petitioned for a local option zoning district and requested the ordinance move forward left the assembly meeting Tuesday frustrated after the ordinance was postponed to a March meeting.

Travis and Crystal Penrod, homeowners on Virginia Drive, have been fighting for greater land use restrictions in the neighborhood for 15 years. The Penrods have spent countless hours in an effort to change the zoning in their subdivision from rural to single-family residential that would force the owner of a gravel pit at the corner of Ciechanski Road and Virginia Drive to fill the hole that have become an “eyesore” to surrounding neighbors, he said.

The borough’s local option zone ordinance provides property owners in rural districts an opportunity to petition the assembly for greater restrictions on land use than otherwise provided under the borough code.

Travis Penrod submitted two petitions to the borough using a local option zoning district to change the zoning from rural to a single-family residence. Penrod needed to collect signatures from 75 percent from the 72 parcels in the area. Owners of 55 parcels signed the petition.

“It is ridiculous,” Penrod said. “The amount of effort we have put in to follow their rules and jump through hoops for nothing.”

Sean Cude, is the latest owner of the gravel pit that has been on the property since 1982, said Soldotna attorney Joe Kashi to the assembly. Kashi asked the ordinance be amended to remove three subdivided empty lot properties also owned by Cude.

“That gravel pit helped build Kalifornsky Beach Road,” Kashi said. “Most of the fill comes from the borough and state (and his client intents) to bring it back up to grade level.”

The assembly heard from nine people with three separate interests. Homeowners asked the ordinance to move forward and see the pit filled, the owner of a nearby hayfield would like the zone to stay the same, and Cude is in the process of appealing the borough planning commission’s decision to deny his land use permit.

David Tiedeman, who has lived on Virginia Drive for 10 years, said the gravel pit that sits on million-dollar property in close proximity to the Kenai River and has dug deep enough it has broken through the aquifer and he is worried about pollution to the river.

“We are trying to do this the right way and we don’t want to kick (the ordinance) down the road,” he said. “Let’s just get this done. We don’t like a mining operation in our backyard.”

Two hayfields owned by Mercedes Gibbs and Oliver Amend have notified the assembly the local zoning district ordinance would affect their agricultural interests. Gibbs, who owns a 46-acre property on Virginia Drive, said she has intends to construct a barn for storing of equipment and hay bales. If the zoning ordinance passes she wouldn’t be able to.

Amend wrote a letter to the assembly that read the zoning change “would put him out of business.”

Assembly member Mako Haggerty said he was divided on postponement because he knows how hard the homeowners worked to bring the local option zoning district forward. At the same time what is holding him back is two neighboring hayfields that total 55-acres.

“If we can’t make everybody happy it would be nice to make two people happy,” he said. “Reason I would vote to postpone is to figure out how the hayfield plays into whole thing and see if there is a relief for that.”

Assembly member Brent Johnson said any constraints put on a farmer would be a huge inconvenience.

“Agriculture on the Kenai Peninsula is a tough row to hoe,” he said. “If we make stipulations on people to make it tougher, who knows what will come up if (the farmers) are already near a tipping point.”

A third petition involves rezoning three lots adjacent to the gravel pit to residential. Penrod said none of the petitioners have any issue with the hayfields because the land was a homestead and the farm was there first. Penrod said Gibbs sold some of her property to Cude and he is concerned about her intentions if she would sell more property that could also be turned into a gravel pit.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission reviewed the ordinance at its Nov. 10 meeting and recommended approval of the local option zoning district for the subdivision with the exclusion of three lots adjacent to the gravel pit. A permit application for the gravel pit was denied by the planning commission. Kashi appealed to the board of adjustment, which will make a decision in January.

Chief of Staff Paul Ostrander said assembly has to wait 30 days after the board of adjustment decision before the ordinance would be reconsidered.

Assembly member Blaine Gilman moved to postpone the ordinance. Gilman said he was concerned for potential exposure to the borough given that the appeal for the gravel pit hasn’t gone through the board of adjustment process yet.

“I’m still trying to figure out what to do with the hayfield,” he said. “I feel for the property owners who want to get it done. Unfortunately it would put the borough in a position of liability.”

Chief of Staff Paul Ostrander said if the assembly passed the ordinance and then the board of adjustment overturned the planning commission’s decision, it puts the borough in conflict with itself.

“It’s just not good business,” he said.

The assembly voted 7-1 to postpone the ordinance until the first meeting in March. Assembly member Kelly Wolf, who represents the Kalifornsky district, left the meeting prior to the ordinance that was brought up for public hearing due to an illness, said Assembly President Dale Bagley.

Several landowners testified to the assembly their concern for health and safety with the pit near the Kenai River. Penrod called the postponement “ridiculous” because they followed all the rules and applied for the petition that was suggested to them by Wolf.

“We jumped through their hoops,” he said. “The amount of effort we went to and to be rejected is frustrating.”

Jeannine Morse, who has lived on Virginia Drive since 1990, bought the property because it was in a beautiful location along the Kenai River. She said the gravel pit is an eyesore with junk that has been thrown into the pit, from freezers full of rotten fish to septic tanks. “We are sick of it,” Morse said. “We need assurance that our quality of life and safety for the river is not at risk. We hope you would be unanimous in protecting us.”

Reach Dan Balmer at

More in News

Nate Rochon cleans fish after dipnetting in the Kasilof River, on June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
King closures continue; Kasilof dipnet opens Saturday

The early-run Kenai River king sport fishery remains closed, and fishing for kings of any size is prohibited

An "Al Gross for Congress" sign sits near the driveway to Gross’ home in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after he announced plans to withdraw from the U.S. House race. Gross has given little explanation in two statements for why he is ending his campaign, and a woman who answered the door at the Gross home asked a reporter to leave the property. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Alaska judge rules Sweeney won’t advance to special election

JUNEAU — A state court judge ruled Friday that Alaska elections officials… Continue reading

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen listens to a presentation from Alaska Communications during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.
ACS pilots fiber program in certain peninsula neighborhoods

The fiber to the home service will make available the fastest internet home speeds on the peninsula

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines for kids younger than 5 years old are now approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
COVID shots for kids under 5 available at public health

Roughly 18 million kids nationwide will now be eligible to get their COVID vaccines.

Megan Mitchell, left, and Nick McCoy protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning of Roe v. Wade at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Heartbroken’, ‘Betrayed’: Alaskans react to Roe decision

Supreme Court decision ends nearly 50 years of legally protected access to abortion

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)
Alaskans react to Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion.

Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Mark Thiessen)
Lawsuit says Sweeney should advance in Alaska US House race

The lawsuit says the fifth-place finisher in the special primary, Republican Tara Sweeney, should be put on the August special election ballot

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker stands in the Peninsula Clarion office on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska AFL-CIO endorses Walker, Murkowski, Peltola

The AFL-CIO is Alaska’s largest labor organization and has historically been one of its most powerful political groups

A portion of a draft letter from Jeffrey Clark is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Federal agents search Trump-era official’s home, subpoena GOP leaders

Authorities on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark

Most Read