Soldotna planning team looks to future

SOLDOTNA — Members of the public and private sectors have joined to address Soldotna’s potential for expansion.

The Soldotna Planning Team consists of city officials, council members, Soldotna Chamber of Commerce staff and business owners. The group met Dec. 9 at the Donald E. Gilman River Center.

The group was formed to identify where the city should be directing focus and efforts, said city Planning and Geographic Information Systems Technician Austin Johnson. Bolder investments and more aggressive planning were two subjects addressed at the meeting, he said.

“Investment depends on setting priorities,” Johnson said. “We need to find time and funding for everything.”

Signage projects will see the most immediate effects of the planning talks, Johnson said. Consultants from Anchorage-based Kittelson & Associates and Pennsylvania-based MERJE offered suggestions and interpretations on possible ways to improve “wayfinding,” which are the signs that direct locals and visitors to landmarks within a city, creating a unified district downtown, he said.

Nancy Casey, from Casey Planning & Design located in Soldotna conducted the majority of the presentation to the planning team.

Many of the proposed projects are rooted in Envision 2030, Soldotna’s comprehensive plan, Johnson said. Limitations on planning are budgeting and fiscal responsibilities, he said.

Casey said city residents frequently express the desire for improving the look of the downtown area. People want sidewalks that are easy to travel and safer roads, more landmarks and continuity, she said.

“People want the Kenai River to play a prominent role in the expansion of economic development opportunities for the city,” Casey said. “They want to make Soldotna a four season destination.”

There is not a specific time to implement anything besides “signage,” which will include welcome signs for the city and replacing “signage,” Johnson said.

By bringing in a variety of voices from the city, the planning team hopes to foster cooperation between the private and public sectors, he said.

The list of projects is meant to be refined over time, Johnson said. While a date is not currently set, in early spring a second presentation will be open to the public, Johnson said. Feedback from community members taken during the first meeting will be incorporated into the next review, he said.

The next meeting will be announced on the city of Soldotna website at

Kelly Sullivan is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.