Assembly finalizes gravel pit code revision
Fourteen months and more than 60 amendments later, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has finally passed a revision of its code regulating gravel pits. The revision came to an uneventful end Tuesday night.
The goals of the revision were to define the role of the planning commission in approving pits, clarify the status of pits that operated prior to code, work in some environmental protection, and balance the interests of the material extraction industry with those of nearby homeowners.
In contrast to the last two public hearings on the revision, only five individuals spoke Tuesday night. A few homeowners, like William Patrick, were still unhappy with the regulations, and what they said was a lack of protection against visual impacts of gravel pits.
“We didn’t come here to see this in our front yards. I came here because of Mt. Iliamna, Mt. Redoubt, all the things I can see from my front porch,” Patrick said.
Ed Martin III, president of the Kenai Peninsula Aggregate and Contractors Association, has generally been a critic of the revision. He submitted a list of 18 grievances on behalf of pit operators last month, which asked for better-defined terms and standards, and described many components of the code as overreaching. But Tuesday, Martin had only granular suggestions of changes to the ordinance.
“Other than that, it looks good,” he concluded.
The assembly finished up a group of amendments brought by Mayor Peter Micciche, including one that clarified the assembly’s intent when it comes to gravel pits that existed prior to borough regulations and are still in operation today. The amendment defines the status of those pits, and removes ambiguous language about expansion.
“As we went through the long process and discussed how we would treat pits that were established prior to 1996, this is how we talked about it,” Planning Director Robert Ruffner explained. “So this amendment is one that you as the body talked about.”
Another amendment from Micciche also pushed back the implementation timeline of the code revision to October of next year, to allow time for necessary studies. Amendments from other members removed a Homer-area estuary research group from review responsibility, scrapped reliance on certain tsunami maps and created a buffer for pits in coastal erosion areas.
All of the amendments passed unanimously, then the assembly passed the entire 28-page ordinance in the same manner.
South Peninsula Assembly Member Mike Tupper responded to the homeowners that were still unhappy with the revision.
“I hear the frustration from some of the homeowners, and I feel for the homeowners, but I don’t think that this is a bad ordinance,” he said. “I think we’ve done a lot of work on this, and it’s had a lot of thought and time put into it, and I stand by it.”
The new code will go into effect October 1, 2024.