Assembly OKs concrete lease in Cooper Landing

A Kenai-based concrete company will set up shop in Cooper Landing to help build parts of a state bypass project in the community following approval last week by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly of a lease agreement with the company. The vote came amid widespread community opposition to the agreement.

Davis Block and Concrete Company will supply concrete materials for the construction of a steel arch bridge that will cross Juneau Creek as part of the Sterling Highway MP 45-60 Project. The state has designated money for the bridge, which is expected to take between three and four years to build.

That larger bypass project is designed to alleviate traffic congestion through the community by building 10 new miles of highway in the area. When completed, the new section of highway will branch off from the Sterling Highway at Milepost 45, cross Juneau Creek and then rejoin the highway at Milepost 60.

Davis Block and Concrete Company applied last July to lease a one-acre chunk of land off Snug Harbor Road in Cooper Landing on which to conduct their concrete activities. The acre is part of a larger piece of borough land currently managed as a material and slash disposal site.

Through the lease agreement approved by borough assembly members last week, Davis Block and Concrete Company will pay $3,500 annually for five years, with the option to terminate the lease early if the project is completed and to extend the lease if needed.

For the duration of the contract, Davis Block and Concrete Company expects to produce 1,500 cubic yards of concrete annually — about half of the size of an Olympic swimming pool. Each mixer truck, Hughes said, can carry between 10 and 12 cubic yards per load.

Cory Davis, who works in Davis Block and Concrete Company’s concrete division, told assembly members last week that it would likely be five to 10 trucks on one day, once every seven to 10 days during the summer.

Leading up to last week’s assembly vote, more than 80 pages of public comments were submitted to the borough regarding the lease, nearly all of which were in opposition. Also submitted to assembly members was a petition signed by more than 100 residents — about one-third of Cooper Landing’s total population — opposing the lease.

Multiple residents expressed concerns about the impact increased commercial traffic on what they described as a residential road would have on the quality of the road, on surrounding property values, on the health of residents and the environment and on people who recreate along the road. Many also criticized what they called a lack of community engagement by the borough and the company.

A majority of both the Cooper Landing Advisory Planning Commission and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission recommended that assembly members approve the lease.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Land Management Agent Aaron Hughes attended the Feb. 21 meeting of the advisory planning commission to respond to community questions and concerns about the lease.

According to minutes from the meeting, a key feature of the property selected for the company to work on, he said, is that it is equidistant from the two ends of the bypass project. That means Davis Block and Concrete Company will just as easily be able to supply the project material regardless of what side of the project work is occurring on.

Other benefits to the borough of leasing the property, he said, are a bump in revenue through the lease payment, more local concrete services for Cooper Landing and development of the borough parcel. Because Snug Harbor Road is owned and maintained by the state, Hughes referred questions about road upkeep to the department, per meeting minutes.

Davis Block and Concrete Company wrote in a Feb. 22 letter to the borough that it plans to put signs along Snug Harbor Road indicating truck traffic on the days that concrete is being produced and hauled. That is in addition, the letter says, to notifying the community about its intended days of production and whether those days will be impacted by weather, schedule changes or other factors.

Multiple residents reiterated their concerns during last week’s assembly meeting.

“I’m really concerned about the safety on that road,” said Cooper Landing resident John Almandrode. “That is a high recreation area. People are going up that road riding bikes, going up to Rainbow Lakes and Cooper Lakes to recreate up in that area. With cement trucks going both ways, it’s just going to be disastrous I feel.”

Resident Rhonda Lynn asked assembly members if anyone from Davis Block and Concrete company had tried turning onto Snug Harbor Road from the Sterling Highway in the company’s commercial vehicles.

“I would also like to know if Davis Block has done a test run to see if they can get their double side dumpers to make a right turn from Sterling Highway onto Snug Harbor without having to veer into the oncoming lanes,” Lynn said. “Because during times of high traffic, that could cause some serious problems.”

Sandra Holsten, a former member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission, told assembly members that allowing a concrete batch plant to operate on land that the borough has classified as “light industrial” sets a precedent for future borough leases and runs counter to the classification category.

The borough does not have zoning in non-municipal areas, but classifies property for review, plan implementation and management purposes, according to municipal code. That section of code differentiates “light industrial” from “heavy industrial.”

“Speaking to you as an old member of the planning commission and dealing with all those titles and codes and what you have to weigh, this is a precedent,” Holsten said. “Please realize that you are saying … that code doesn’t matter. That light industrial and heavy industrial are the same thing. That is not what the community thought when they planned it.”

Davis told assembly members Tuesday that the company has no intention of operating a concrete facility longer than is needed for the Cooper Landing Bypass Project.

“This by no means will ever be permanent,” he said. “Concrete is a volume by nature business — there isn’t the volume in Cooper Landing, Moose Pass and the surrounding areas to justify a concrete plant. My intention on this is strictly for the bridge project and then just supply the community with concrete as needed.”

In response to some of the concerns voiced by residents during the meeting, Davis said he also shares concerns about safety, but that it’s the company’s top priority. If it’s determined that the turns are too tight for the company’s double vehicles, they’ll use singles.

“If there is an issue and it’s too big, we will haul singles,” he said. “It’s a very simple fix.”

Assembly members voted 8-1 to approve the lease, with assembly member Cindy Ecklund voting in opposition.

Ecklund, whose district includes Cooper Landing, said she still had concerns about the safety of vehicles traveling in the area.

“(Cooper Landing) emergency services is right there, the post office that everybody in Cooper Landing goes to every day is right there and if there’s an accident anywhere around there, not only will emergency services be hindered, but their cement that has a timeline could be hindered,” she said.

Assembly member Bill Elam said he’s thought a lot about the best way to balance commercial development with the quality of life for neighboring residents as the assembly has mulled changes to its gravel pit ordinances. One thing he said he’s learned is that “you can’t legislate good neighbors.”

“One of the big things that I keep hearing when we start talking about a lease, or operators or industry, especially as it’s around some of our housing-dense areas is how important it is to have good neighbors and everything I’ve heard about Davis Block is that they are just that — a good neighbor,” Elam said.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities last month confirmed to the Clarion that summer work on the Cooper Landing Bypass Project will include ordering the steel needed to construct the bridge and drilling work on the project’s west side. The state will also begin excavating a landing area for the steel when it arrives this fall.

Tuesday’s assembly meeting can be streamed on the borough’s website at

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at