Story last updated at 2:35 PM on Thursday, November 3, 2005

Speed bump shouldn’t halt town-center, organizer says

By Chris Eshleman
Staff Writer

The Homer City Council postponed at its last meeting a vote on whether to incorporate the town-center plan into the city’s larger Homer Comprehensive Plan, but a town-center organizer said that move doesn’t derail seven years’ of work.

Weeks earlier, the council had voted to start putting the plan — which would encourage landowners to develop an eco-friendly, walkable, mixed-use district downtown — into action. Last week, however, the proposal to include it in the comprehensive plan, ordinance 05-53, was not approved.

Instead, council members tabled the plan after five minutes of debate on whether including it in the comprehensive plan would place unwanted restrictions on the three landowners involved.

Council member Beth Wythe moved to table the proposal. Wythe later said she and others were concerned that if the town-center plan was incorporated into the comprehensive plan, it could immediately add restrictions on the three major property owners — the city of Homer, the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust and the native corporation Cook Inlet Region Inc.

Seaman directs the land trust, and said all three property owners have shown interest in developing along the guidelines outlined in the town-center plan. Even if it were adopted as part of the comprehensive plan, the council would still have to approve any zoning regulations, she said. Many options, including allowing shared-parking lots — which are currently against city code — or encouraging height-restrictions for buildings, for example, would be beneficial to everyone, Seaman said.

The move to postpone a vote shouldn’t stop the town-center plan from moving forward, Seaman said last week. It does show project supporters need to prove it won’t create unwanted restrictions in the district, however.

“All along, it’s been such an inclusive process,” Seaman said, speaking of the seven years it took to develop the town-center plan. “We should have taken more care to introduce council members to the details of and justification for the plan.”

New council member Matt Shadle, who campaigned this fall on a platform that the city needed proper planning to handle growth, said he was concerned personnel changes at Cook Inlet Region Inc. may have affected the corporation’s commitment to the plan. He did say, however, that he supports the project.

Shadle, who owns property neighboring the 28-acre tract between the Sterling Highway and Pioneer Avenue, said he only wanted to make sure all three property owners are on board.

Chris Eshleman can be reached at