Gravel pit group chips away at bond issues

One of the key controversies with gravel pits in the borough is who is responsible for cleaning them up after the digging, crushing and hauling are done.

Kenai Peninsula residents complain that gravel pits languish after operators are finished, gathering trash, flooding and possibly lowering property values as an eyesore in the neighborhood. Addressing that complaint was one of the founding objectives for the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Material Site Working Group, which has been meeting since February to discuss and recommend changes to the existing code regulating material sites — a category including a variety of sites including sand, though gravel pits are the most controversial.

Neighbors have weighed in throughout the process on issues of noise, dust, traffic, property values and quality of life. Operators have responded that further restrictions will raise the cost of gravel and inhibit private property rights — many operators work their own land. Outside city limits, there are no zoning restrictions in the borough.

The borough Planning Department has targeted a code rewrite that would clarify the process for reclamation and bonding on the site.

“It is in the code, about the bonds, but that has not been our practice,” said Bruce Wall, the borough planner, at the work group’s meeting Wednesday. “We’ve been interpreting that pretty loosely. The state exemption (from bonding) is if you have less than five acres disturbed and if you excavate less than 50,000 cubic yards a year. Really, that’s very few material sites in the borough that fall under that exemption, because most of them are over five acres of disturbed area. We just haven’t been administering that bonding program.”

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