City council considers new definition for ‘discontinued’

With the real-life application of city code eliminating the Bay View Inn’s lawful nonconforming use within an area zoned rural residential, the Homer City Council at its regular meeting Monday opened the door for a new definition of “discontinued.”

Currently, the right to maintain nonconforming use comes to an end if that use is not resumed for a period of 12 consecutive months. In the case of Bay View Inn, the owner, Dennis Novak, a former city council member, died in 2011, and the business has not operated since that time. It is currently for sale, listed as a “commercial lot” by Bay View Realty, with a selling price of $543,000. However, lack of operation for more than 12 months means it can no longer be operated as the inn it once.

Ordinance 13-42, sponsored by council member Bryan Zak, seeks to change that time limit to 36 months.

“A 36-month limit on the time a nonconforming use may cease will provide a more reasonable time for a successor operator to accomplish the steps necessary to resume operation of the use,” the ordinance states.

An amendment to the ordinance, introduced by council member Beau Burgess, shortened the time to 24 months.

“People potentially losing the value of their property for reasons outside their control is something we need to consider,” said Burgess, adding that the argument could be made that a year is not enough time to settle an estate. “I don’t know, however that 36 months is a swing too far in the opposite direction. … I’d like to see something come back from the Planning Commission that’s more palatable.”

Burgess also raised the concern that extending the time period too much might “undermine property values of adjacent properties.”

Council member Francie Roberts agreed that 36 months was too long and supported input from the Planning Commission.

Zak said the ordinance was not for the sole purpose of benefiting a particular property.

“I thought 36 might be too much to be palatable, so I had discussions with some business owners, but their feedback was that 36 was not long enough because of probate, selling property and coming up with a new business plan,” said Zak. “So 36 seemed realistic, but then again I’m glad to see it going to the Planning Commission.”

Burgess’ amendment from 36 to 24 months passed with council members Barbara Howard, David Lewis, Francie Roberts and Burgess voting for it and Zak voting against it. Council member Gus Vandyke was absent. Introduction of the amended ordinance was unanimously approved.

Jim Lavrakas, executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, provided the council with information about the chamber’s use of a grant from the city for marketing of Homer.

Ken Castner also spoke to the council about his petition for a Charter Commission election (see related story, page XX).

The council officially received the draft 2014 budget and will begin revising it at its next regular meeting scheduled for Nov. 25.

In other action, the council:

• Appointed Corbin Arno to the Economic Development Advisory Commission, reappointed Zak to the Economic Development Advisory Commission as a consulting member and reappointed Matt North to the Permanent Fund Committee;

• Approved liquor license renewals for the Salty Dawg Saloon and Café Cups;

• Introduced Ordinance 13-43, authorizing the expenditure of the Homer Accelerated Water and Seward Program funds for Paradise Place sewer main extension and creating a deferred assessment on benefited properties;

• Approved Resolution 13-107, maintaining the city’s fee schedule at current rates;

• Approved Resolution 13-108, maintaining the Homer Harbor terminal tariff at the current rates;

• Approved Resolution 13-109, awarded a $25,500 bid to Alaska Marine Excavation for surplus dock fenders;

• Passed Ordinance 13-39, accepting a $75,000 state grant and appropriating a $75,000 match for improvements to Karen Hornaday Park;

• Passed Ordinance 13-40, that aligns the city’s system for recording fines with the state’s system;

• Ordinance 13-41, appropriating a U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant with an up to 50 percent in-kind match for completing landscaping improvements at Karen Hornaday Park Playground.

• Selected Roberts to serve as Mayor Pro Tempore for 2013-2014.

The next regular meeting is Nov. 25.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at