Assembly reduces Planning Commission

The number of Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission members will decrease to 11, but not until 2020.

After initially voting it down, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly resurrected and passed an ordinance that revised the apportionment for Planning Commission membership at its Tuesday meeting. The commission, which approves or denies plats and advises the assembly on land use issues, currently has 13 members. After July 31, 2020, it will have a maximum of 11.

Assembly member Brent Johnson originally proposed the ordinance to address a code violation — the Planning Commission is out of compliance with state statute.

After assembly discussion, Borough Mayor Mike Navarre proposed a substitute ordinance that would knock down membership to 11 people at the most.

Several members changed their minds with the mayor’s proposal, including Kelly Cooper of Homer.

“I am going to support the amended ordinance because we are out of compliance,” she said. “I can’t ignore that away. We have until 2020. There is nothing that prevents us from adjusting this as we need to. I’m going to assume that we will approve (new commissioners) appropriately.”

 

Eliminating two planning commissioners would reduce their travel costs and stipends, the amount varying depending on where the person was from — a commissioner from Seldovia costs more because of the higher cost to cross Kachemak Bay and reach Soldotna for each meeting. The borough administration estimated the change would save about $30,000 annually.

 

Some of the original opposition has eroded. The Kenai City Council reversed its position to take a “neutral” one on the mayor’s substitute. Seldovia’s City Council submitted a revised letter saying the council members were still concerned about the lack of representation, but suggested term limits for Planning Commission members with a rotating system between first class and home-rule cities.

 

Others stayed the same: Soldotna’s Planning and Zoning Commission, the city of Homer and the Planning Commission still voted not to support it, and assembly member Willy Dunne — who represents District 9, which includes Seldovia — maintained his opposition.

 

Assembly member Stan Welles, who rejoined the assembly for the first time since May after an absence because of medical treatment, voted against it. He said he was concerned about he lack of representation for Seldovia, the at-large appointments for the non-city representatives and the possible incorporation of Nikiski, which would change the apportionment for cities. He said he favored an idea proposed by Planning Commissioner Paulette Carluccio from Seldovia, in which representation from first class and home rule cities would rotate. He said he was still in favor of reducing the size of the commission but not by the method in the ordinance.

 

“The other beauty about her system is that it has a de-facto built-in term limit aspect to it,” Welles said.

 

Johnson said the unincorporated communities can form advisory planning commissions to meet on their own land-use issues and make recommendations to the borough’s Planning Commission.

 

“Each member of the Planning Commission represents the whole borough,” he said.

 

“It’s actually a well put together system. No wonder it’s been in existence for a long, long time.”

 

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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