It’s been four years since the city of Soldotna took stock of its long term comprehensive plan, called Envision Soldotna 2030. A lot has changed since then. City staff recently updated the report laying out what has been accomplished based on the comp plan.
John Czarneski, the city’s director of economic development and planning, presented the new report to the planning and zoning commission this week.
“In the economic development area, one of our high priority goals was to promote a downtown area that attracts visitors and residents. One of the activities that was accomplished was the renovation of the old DOT yard into Soldotna Creek Park, creating an asset for all of downtown.”
Other changes to help foster a more hip downtown feel include changes to city code regarding food trucks, which allow them to operate anywhere in the city with landowner permission, making the truly mobile. And while a revamped downtown has been a high-profile focus, the city made other investments to sort of tidy and brighten things up, like in the storefront improvement program.
“Since this program was first adopted, the city has contributed about $84,000 and it’s resulted in about $375,000 of private investment, so it’s really, I think, done a great job of leveraging dollars in improvements within the community.”
But there were other, less flashy, nuts and bolts aspects to the city’s list of goals. Cleaning up city code to solve ongoing land use conflicts was one. Czarneski says there were issues popping up in areas where commercial and residential land uses were right next to each other, so the city looked into the buffer areas between the two and made some changes, including the use of fences and trees as part of the buffer.
“The original buffer before the modification was 10 feet in width. We were really cramming these things into a small area, which wasn’t good for tree health. We ended up with a lot of trees crowding each other out and dying so we expanded that buffer to 15 feet and reduced the distance between trees. So you still end up with a staggered row of trees that are screening the development, but hopefully we’ve got better vegetation that will live longer and provide better screening."
Infrastructure, too, was on the list. How to more cleanly and quickly divert stormwater was an issue that was addressed. But also, just simply making undeveloped parts of the city ready for new uses, like around Homestead Lane by the Y.
“That area was prepped for sidewalks and also has sewer and water extended through it, so as development occurs in that area, we are able to facilitate its growth and encourage growth in that area.”
Nine major goal areas were established when the plan was adopted, and when the city finishes its work updating the sign code, seven will have been addressed. Still left to go are subdivision regulations and work on the Kenai River Overlay District. That is specific to development along the Kenai river.