The Kenai Peninsula Borough is updating its comprehensive plan. The project began earlier this year and is still in the first phase of acquiring public input.
That’s on everything from what you think the borough is lacking, what’s working well and, in general, how people would like to see the borough develop, both short and long term. The borough has hired a consulting firm, Agnew and Beck out of Anchorage, to help put the plan together. Shelly Wade is a planner there.
“So, to that end, we have spent our time in different Kenai Peninsula communities, having conversations with residents at community-driven events — festivals, art fairs and other community meetings where we have an opportunity to interface with residents on their terms, in their space, to hear from them, what are the things that are most important to them? What do they think should be the priorities for the borough moving forward?”
A lot of information so far has come from the central peninsula. Outlying areas across Kachemak Bay or Cook Inlet will be focused on, as well. But the opinions coming in are beginning to take shape. There’s a call for a more diversified economy, to adjust to declining state fortunes and improve mobility between communities. Planning and zoning efforts have, in the past, gotten a cool reception from many parts of the peninsula. But Wade says that’s changing.
“There’s going to be a continuing discussion, especially as we think about how to best implement goals that continue to provide a place where people feel like they are able to hold on to the values and the things that they love about living on the Kenai and our access to wilderness and public lands. At the same time, you hear folks saying there’s a place, and an appropriate place, where some kind of light or general development standards could be beneficial to all parties.”
Of course, one of the main challenges here is that things can change quickly. Oil can boom or bust. Same with fishing. An entire industry, cannabis, that didn’t exist a year ago, may not exist a year from now in the borough. Wade says even if a comprehensive plan is able to factor in major variables, if it’s not revisited over time, it doesn’t offer much of the intended benefit.
“The success is absolutely, 100 percent tied into using and visiting the plan on a regular basis. When we met with the planning commission and the assembly early on, there was the concern that previous plans did not provide a level of access like the monthly or the annual type of guidance that borough staff, assembly, planning commission, department and other partners need to actually guide and plan their action.”
A draft plan is expected this fall. That plan will then go out for some public comments before being further refined. The next event to share your views on the future of the borough is at the Kenai Peninsula State Fair in Ninilchik Aug. 18 through Aug. 20. Or you can fill out the survey here.