City takes suggestions on Comprehensive Plan

Is it that time again already? That’s right — time to update Homer’s Comprehensive Plan.

Revised about every 10 years, a city’s Comprehensive Plan is basically just what it sounds like: a long-term planning document meant to encapsulate the core of what residents believe the city’s goals and focus should be going forward.

As part of the updating process, the public is invited to weigh in on the plan. Several people did just that at an open house held at City Hall last Thursday, Feb. 1, where city officials were on hand to explain the plan and take questions.

Deputy City Planner Julie Engebretsen said versions of Homer’s comprehensive plan go back to the 1950s. She said the last iteration of the plan, updated in 2008, caused some concern among residents about future land use in the city. Land use is the only area of the current draft plan that involves any major change.

“Much of the rest of the comp plan talks about what city services we have, you know, water and our sewer and our transportation,” Engebretsen said. “So land use is one of those things that’s a little bit more dynamic.”

One change proposed in the draft plan is to convert part of Homer’s Central Business District along Lake Street into General Commercial 1, which is how Ocean Drive is currently zoned. The general commercial zone allows for more things like car lots or businesses that require large or outdoor storage spaces, like Spenard’s Building Supply.

Engebretsen said there have not been many comments on this particular aspect of the plan, but that the city has notified all the property owners in that area as well as those on the border in case they want to weigh in.

Additionally, the draft plan for 2018 is more concise and easier to read than previous iterations, Engebretsen said.

“The last one was written at the peak of the economy,” she said. “So there was this vision that we would have unlimited funds to do a whole bunch of things in the community, both city and in nonprofts and in community groups. So it’s a little more pulled in about what we’re really looking at in the next five to 10 (years).”

Public comment on the plan ends March 31. The Homer Advisory Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the plan in April.

“Assuming things go fairly quickly after that, the city council would have a public hearing and act in the spring,” Engebretsen said.

From there, the plan goes to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission for approval, followed by the assembly.

City Manager Katie Koster said those submitting comments should think very big picture, since the plan is a long-range document that guides city decisions.

“I would suggest looking at it through that lens versus one particular project or street,” she said.

Comments should take into account what people want Homer to look like or value years into the future.

City resident Karin Marks, who also sits on the Economic Development Advisory Commission, went to the open house because she said she’s interested in how the city might be able to draw more traffic and attention to Pioneer Avenue. Many tourists and even city residents, she said, are apt to take the Homer Bypass to get to the Homer Spit, but end up bypassing many businesses and opportunities on Pioneer.

Resident Charlie Barnwell said he’s curious about where Homer is going next, having moved from Anchorage after living there most of his life. He’s particularly interested in the watershed area in the northern part of the city, in the Dimond Ridge area.

“I want to see more specific amenities,” Barnwell said of Homer’s future. “To start with, a good library, which we have and we need to keep up with. A good hospital, good trails, good parks. Those are the main things.”

The plan and more information about the timeline to approve the update is available on the city’s website at cityofhomer-ak.gov/planning/homer-comprehensive-plan-2018-update.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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