Despite more than a year of effort put in by a dedicated work group, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has been unable to pass new rules regarding gravel pits and material sites. An ordinance updating two sections of borough code was defeated last month, but a move to reconsider kept the debate going.
Assembly member Jesse Bjorkman moved to reconsider the defeated vote after hearing from constituents that they wanted additional opportunity to chip in their two cents.
“Folks contacted myself as well as other members of the Assembly who had input that they wanted put into the ordinance, and wanted to have a chance to speak to things and explain why things were done at the material site work group and hear maybe more of a middle ground of what was going on in this ordinance. I think reconsideration provides an opportunity to do that, as well as talk about what’s in actually in the existing ordinance.”
The proposed changes include more groundwater testing, cutting back on hours of operation for gravel pits, extending buffers and more stringent rules for noise among several others. After several rounds of testimony, it became clear that neither property owners near gravel pits, or the operators themselves were very happy with the proposed changes. They either go too far, or not far enough, depending on your position. In the original vote, the motion failed by a count of three to six, leaving open the option for reconsideration. But not everyone on the assembly was ready to revisit that vote.
“If we don’t do anything, if reconsideration fails, the motion then is gone and what have currently in existing code remains in place," said assembly member Hal Smalley.
"There are some items in this ordinance that are good, and I think are needed. But I think the planning department can continue to work on this ordinance and bring it back to us in that timeframe, 60 days, as a new ordinance and we can take a look at it and go from there. But at this point, I’m not sure we’re ready to pass it, so I’m not going to support reconsideration.”
Assembly president Kelly Cooper voted in favor of the new rules the first time around. She says over the course of 15 months during which the working group was meeting, and in the planning commission process that followed, there was more than enough opportunity for any and all ideas to be pitched. She voted in favor, figuring that any additional changes could be made with some simple amendments.
“My phone blew up, my email blew up and neither side was happy in any way, shape or form. And they brought forward good information saying you totally blew it, this is nowhere close, both sides are not happy with it and the amendments that could be coming forth on that are large enough that...it would take additional time and should go to the planning commission as well.”
By a vote of 5-4, the move to reconsider failed, and so too did the proposed new gravel pit rules, although a new ordinance on the matter can be introduced in sixty days.