Condo owners may pay for what they get

A recommendation from Tom Klinkner, attorney for the city of Homer, may mean local condo owners can relax when it comes to individual property assessments within the city’s natural gas distribution system special assessment district.

As originally estimated, the improvement plan called for $3,283.30 per-lot assessments. Under that plan, condo owners within a single building would be assessed individually. Homer resident Ken Castner, owner of Kachemak Bay Title Building, challenged that and the Superior Court ruled the separate assessments on that building’s condominium units were out of proportion to the benefit the units would receive.

“While the Castner decision does not strictly bind the city in assessing condominiums other than the Kachemak Bay Title Building, we recommend that the city apply the same assessment method to any other condominium where more than one unit is served by a single service connection to the natural gas distribution system,” Klinkner said in a Nov. 7 memo to City Manager Walt Wrede.

In other words, one building plus one service line equals one assessment.

At Monday’s regular meeting of the city council, Klinkner was clear that Kachemak Bay Title Building was only one condominium scenario, however. Others might be one service line per condominium or condominiums in separate buildings with separate service lines. For that, he recommended “a single per-lot assessment for each service connection, divide it by the number of condominium units in the related building, and levy an 

assessment equal to the resulting amount against each condominium unit in that building.”

Wrede emphasized to the council that Klinkner’s was an “initial recommendation, which we promised you, but if you want to discuss it in more detail, you can do that with (Klinkner). There was a range of options we looked at. … This is not a done deal tonight.” 

The final assessment roll will be presented to the council in January. Landowners will have an opportunity to object and point out errors and omissions in the roll before it is finalized.  

Speaking for other condominium owners, Amy Springer said, “We all wanted natural gas and were willing to go along with the way assessing was done. It sounded fair. But it wasn’t when applied to condominiums. …  I thank you because it looks like we’ll only get one assessment. Thank you for hearing me.”

Council members used Monday’s regular council meeting to squeeze in last-minute items for the city’s 2015 budget, which will be acted upon at the Dec. 8 council meeting. It turned out to be an impossible sell for council member David Lewis, who tried to redirect $10,000 from the city’s Homer Chamber of Commerce funding to the Homer Hockey Association’s operations of the Kevin Bell Arena.

Lewis pointed out that in the past 10 years, the rink not only attracted people to Homer, but HHA supporters, parents, youth and adult hockey and broomball players had raised more then $3 million to keep the rink operating.

“The Kevin Bell Arena is an economic engine in Homer in the wintertime,” said Lewis. “It always needs all the help it can get.” 

Council member Catriona Lowe agreed with the rink’s importance, but questioned it was the only organization in need of a financial boost.

“My hesitation around this would be how we choose between one organization and another, even though they’re all worthy,” said Lowe.

Rather than single out one nonprofit, council member Francie Roberts favored funding the Homer Foundation, “a place where we can help a lot of nonprofits.”  

Coming to Lewis’ defense, council member Bryan Zak offered an amendment that would take the $10,000 from an economic development account.

Although Zak’s amendment passed, Lewis’ request for $10,000 for HHA failed to get the votes needed with Lewis, Zak and council member Gus Van Dyke voting yes; Roberts and Lowe voting no; and council member Beau Burgess excused. 

Lewis did better with his $10,000 request to help fund the Homer Senior Citizens’ transition to natural gas. It passed with no objection.  

Lewis and Lowe each requested funding for a picnic shelter to be constructed near Pier One Theatre. Lewis’ request was for $5,000, while Lowe’s was for $7,500. The $5,000 request passed with no objection. 

Also finding the council’s approval was the Homer Volunteer Fire Department’s request to replace a funding request for a pump which has since been repaired, with a new heavy-duty washing machine.  

Burgess’ proposed budget amendment relating to compensation for council members will be discussed at the Dec. 8 meeting, when he is expected to be present. 

Prior to the Dec. 8 meeting, a revised version of the budget will be available for the public to review on the city’s website, cityofhomer-ak.gov.

A memo from the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission requested the council adopt a resolution to form a Beach Policy Task Force “to address the increase in unlawful behavior on the beach, to the protected habitat of Beluga Slough and destruction to private property.” The council chose not to act on the request after hearing from commissioner Trish Lillibridge that the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission was working with the public to “come up with something that will work for the community.” 

Finally, City Clerk Jo Johnson, the city’s finance department and Elaine Grabowski of the Homer Volunteer Fire Department were recognized for recent rewards. 

Johnson was named “Clerk of the Year” by the Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks; the finance department received a certificate of achievement for financial reporting; Grabowski received a state EMS award.   

“Working with Jo is a pleasure. She keeps me in order, keeps me looking good. I appreciate all she’s doing for us, her selflessness,” said Mayor Beth Wythe.

The next meeting of the Homer City Council will be Dec. 8 at the Cowles Council Chambers, the Committee of the Whole at 5 p.m. and the regular meeting at 6 p.m.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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