The city of Soldotna has looked at expanding its footprint at various times over the years. The most recent effort goes back almost two years and has potential economic implications for residents, businesses and the city.
On this week’s Kenai Conversation, I talked with Soldotna city manager Stephanie Queen about the city’s economic goals as it looks at bringing several areas into the city’s limits for a variety of reasons and what development now could mean for development in the future.
Are there specific economic goals for annexation that the city has in mind?
One of the common misconceptions I’ve heard often is that the city has desires for some sort of development to occur, whether it’s on vacant land or outside the city. And I can honestly say from my perspective, that has not been a consideration. So I see this as a process that’s looking at what’s happening or what’s already occurred and trying to mitigate and keep up with that impact. There are some areas, one of the areas across K-Beach from the Sports Center, has a lot of vacant land that’s not developed yet. I think the city has a lot of benefit that we could bring to that area if we planned ahead of time to bring water and sewer, for example, to be extended across the road. But we don’t have a master plan or designs on particular types of commercial development. You look at the portion of K-Beach where there’s a tremendous amount of growth and development. The city’s not causing that. And we don’t have a particular interest, other than recognizing that it’s occurring and making sure we can look forward 20-30 years from now and still be able to pave our roads, provide parks that people want and those kinds of services.
There are some gravel resources that could potentially be developed over. How does protecting those kinds of resources go into the planning?
I don’t anticipate that if the city boundaries moved and that area became part of the city, that that would either preclude or encourage any particular development on that property. It’s really going to be up to the property owners to continue to make those decisions. A lot of the areas we are looking at outside Soldotna feel commercial in nature. It’s kind of a do what you want in terms of the type of use you want to develop. It accommodates residential, it accommodates a wide variety of commercial and industrial uses. So it’s not the case that if city boundaries expanded that we would have undue influence on the type of business and even whether it’s residential or commercial. There’s still a tremendous amount of flexibility. That decision belongs with those landowners.
What is the measuring stick or the mark for what (areas) make sense economically.
There are several. Soldotna is about seven square miles. The areas we are looking at are an additional four square miles, approximately. And it’s different for different areas. So one of the criteria is that the area has a reasonable need or an expectation of a need for city services. So when we look at that criteria, we look at areas where the city is already providing water and sewer outside the city. There are about two dozen businesses, residences where they’re outside the city currently, but our infrastructure is already serving that area and they’ve made a request to come in and get that service. So the ability to provide service is one criteria.
For this week’s number, of course, the one that matters most right now to a lot of people: 51,308.
That’s the sockeye count for the Kenai river as of Wednesday, still well off the mark of where we were last year and well, well off the mark for historical averages at this time of the run. The biggest day for passage through the sonar counters at mile 19 so far was July 7th when about 7,700 reds went through. The late king run, which had been trending up earlier in the week slid back down a bit. Just 2,100 chinook have been estimated up the river so far, as restrictions remain in place to try and get to the department of fish and game’s goal of at least 3,900.