Dorothy Drive easement petition pulled

Dorothy Drive landowners pulled their petition to vacate the last 2,000 feet of the East Skyline Drive area subdivision road last week.

Though the item appeared on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission’s agenda for its Monday, Aug. 13 meeting, no one commented on the item and the commission did not act on it.

Property owners at the end of the narrow gravel road sought to make private a section of Dorothy Drive and Lewis Place, an undeveloped road. They wanted to install a gate before the last four homes on the street, including that of country-music star Zac Brown. Brown and his neighbors have complained of frequent traffic from fans wanting to take photos of Brown’s house. They also raised public safety concerns, with allegations of trespassing on Brown’s property.

Borough Platting Manager Scott Huff said the application needed a majority of landowners to proceed, but that it no longer had a majority and that other applicants asked for it to be withdrawn.

In the Aug. 13 borough planning commission packet, planning staff noted that comments supporting the right-of-way vacation had not been received by three property owners. The wife of one property owner did sign the petition, but staff said there was not documentation showing she had authority to sign. Staff also recommended that the petition be denied unless all the property owners in the area agreed.

In a separate petition, several of the Dorothy Drive landowners also want to vacate section-line and pedestrian easements in the area. One easement goes between Brown’s property and that of his neighbor to the west, Dick Koskovich. The petition supporting the pedestrian easement notes that the grade exceeds 50 percent on the easement. According to a notice of public hearing, that petition is on the agenda for the borough Planning Commission meeting of 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27, in the borough building in Soldotna. Huff said one petitioner has asked to postpone the petition to another meeting, but he didn’t know if that will happen.

The Dorothy Drive easements relate to a historic trail, the Mary Lane Trail. According to a 1994 Homer Public Library Top Drawer Collection book by Ohlson Mountain Road resident Milli Martin, “The Mary Lane Trail: History and Use,” the trail dates back to at least 1917. At that time Jack Dietz used a trail along Bear Canyon to get from his homestead near Wasabi’s on East End Road to hunt moose in the area.

Martin writes in the book that Don Bellamy said his father, Ben Bellamy, carried him in a box up the trail after Don was born in Seward in 1944 and brought to Homer at Miller’s Landing on the beach near Kachemak Drive and East End Road. Martin cites more than 62 people who used the trail up until 1994 when she wrote her book.

Trail supporters have formed a group, Friends of Dorothy Drive Trail, to support historic trail use in the area. Hiker Kevin Walker wrote a letter to the editor last week for the Homer News advocating Dorothy Drive neighbors and trail supporters work out a compromise for a new route through the subdivision that would avoid going near existing homes.

“I haven’t heard anything about that,” Huff said. “It would be nice.”

Huff said historic trails can fall under a section of federal law called RS 2447 that can establish right-of-way. He said that according to his research, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources looked at a nomination to do that in 1995.

“After researching the trail’s history, it was rejected,” he said.

Huff said that a vacation of a section line easement “requires equal or superior access to be granted.”

For example, the section line further north between Dorothy Drive and Sanford Avenue was vacated because the road goes around the easement.

A section-line easement also involves review by state agencies.

In looking at easements, Huff said “We look at as much information as we can — public comments, any kind of uses the public has for it.”

Written comments on the section-line and pedestrian easement vacation must be received no later than the end of business on Friday, Aug. 24. Send comments to the attention of Jordan Reif, KPB Planning Department, 144 N. Binkley Street, Soldotna, AK 99669 or fax to 907-714-2378.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

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