DNR grants reconsideration of Dorothy Drive easement closure

Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige has granted a request for reconsideration of a 1-year, temporary closure of a section line easement in the lower Dorothy Drive area.

Feige announced her decision in a letter dated June 6 to Roberta Highland, the citizen who filed the request on behalf of 38 other signers. The commissioner’s letter makes no judgment either way on the points raised by Highland protesting temporary closure of the section line easement, Feige wrote.

“Granting reconsideration does not imply that the issues raised in your Request have merit or that the undersigned will reverse her decision,” Feige wrote. “This office will consider the information in your Request and issue a decision on the merits in due course.”

There is no hard deadline for Feige to make a final decision on the temporary closure, DNR Communications Director Dan Saddler wrote in an email.

On May 10, Feige issued a temporary closure of the section line easement in response to a petition filed in July 2018 by Dorothy Drive landowners Zac Brown (under his corporate name Spotty Merle LLC, care of Southern Ground), Richard Koskovich, and Peter and Kathleen Zuyus. They asked the state to vacate about 830 feet of a section line running north-south from Plunging Way to Dorothy Drive between the Brown and Koskovich property and another 720 feet running along the western edge of the Zuyus lot.

The DNR temporary closure of the section line easement does not affect a 20-foot wide public easement granted decades ago by the Kenai Peninsula Borough between the Koskovich and Brown lots.

Feige cited public safety concerns for the temporary closure, but Highland challenged that and other points.

In April, DNR issued a preliminary decision approving the Brown, Koskovich and Zuyus petition and sought public comments. Dorothy Drive is a dead-end street in the Gruening Vista Subdivision south of East Skyline Drive and east of Bear Canyon. In her request for reconsideration, Highland noted historic use of the area for a trail called the Mary Lane Trail. The route has changed over the years, Highland wrote, but the section line now offers the only legal pedestrian use.

Feige’s reconsideration of the temporary closure of the section line is the only action now being done by DNR, Saddler wrote in his email.

“DNR will take no further action until the Kenai Peninsula Borough has completed its process, and KPB has not yet received a request from the petitioners,” Saddler wrote. “According to DMLW’s (Division of Mining, Land and Water) conversation with Zac Brown’s attorney, they are waiting until this fall to file the petition with KPB. There will be a process for the public to weigh in through KPB’s consideration of the petition.”

Brown’s attorney, Blaine Gilman of Kenai, had previously said he could not comment on a client’s case.

Borough platting manager Scott Huff said no petition has been filed with the borough to vacate the section line easement. If such a petition were filed, it would go to the borough planning commission and then the borough assembly for review and consideration. The borough could set conditions on such a petition.

Saddler said that once the borough issues its decision and conditions of approval, DNR will review and make its final decision on whether to permanently vacate the section line easement.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.