Waves crash against the Ocean Drive Loop seawall during a storm on the Homer Spit on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. The combination of a 20.7-foot high tide and swells out of the southwest hammered the north shore of Kachemak Bay. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Waves crash against the Ocean Drive Loop seawall during a storm on the Homer Spit on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019, in Homer, Alaska. The combination of a 20.7-foot high tide and swells out of the southwest hammered the north shore of Kachemak Bay. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Council approves funds for seawall repairs

The city of Homer took a step Monday night to be better prepared in the event that further damage is done to the Ocean Drive Loop seawall.

The council voted at their Monday meeting to appropriate funding from the Seawall Maintenance Reserve account and the Ocean Drive Loop Special Service District account, totaling $42,804. This is to establish authority in the 2020 budget for emergency repairs to the seawall, should they be needed.

The city annually contributes $10,000 to the Seawall Reserve Account to cover the portion of repairs the city is responsible as a tax-exempt property owner of a portion of the seawall, according to the ordinance passed at the meeting. The city is responsible for 18% of seawall repairs (based on linear feet) while other property owners whose property the seawall is located on are responsible for the remaining 82%.

The cost of emergency fixes to the seawall can vary greatly from year to year and cannot be predicted, the ordinance states. Repairs have cost as little as zero dollars in 2013 and as much at $102,916 in 2017, according to the ordinance.

Appropriating the roughly $42,800 allows the city to be prepared for anticipated damage to the seawall this year and to react with emergency repairs.

The council also passed an ordinance Monday that will require people completing new builds within city limits to complete an “as-built survey” and turn it in to the city planner when they complete their building or structure. An “as-built survey” indicates the exact location of a finished structure in relationship to lot lines and setbacks.

The goal is to encourage “diligence and adherence to site plans,” according to the ordinance text.

Homer’s Planning Commission reviewed the current process for permitting new builds over the course of several meetings and came up with recommendations that included an as-built survey, according to a memo from City Planner Rick Abboud t the council.

“In consideration of the City of Homer’s current zoning regulations, which do not include building inspection or a building department, the Commission (sic) supports a requirement to provide an as-built survey after completion of a structure,” Abboud wrote. “This is intended to warrant more accountability that a finished structure will not deviate from approved plans.”

One member of the public, Larry Slone, commented on the ordinance before the council voted, expressing concern that the ordinance might be overreach or over regulation on the city’s part. He pointed out that the cost of having an as-built survey done could be prohibitive to some people.

Council member Joey Evensen pointed out that as-built surveys would not be required for structures smaller than 200 square feet.

Council members Rachel Lord and Heath Smith said this ordinance was born out of problems with people getting permits for new builds within city limits, and then not building them according to what was laid out in those permits.

“Change is usually driven by the manifestation of uglier things,” Smith said. “We have a permitting process to which people come in, submit their plans to our planning department and they provide a permit. And then there’s no way to ensure that they followed what they’re permitted to do. … I think historically, if you look back, there’s too many people that have taken great license in where they build and what they build, and then it encroaches or it’s not in the proper setback. And then it becomes a problem (for) everybody else.”

Lord said that when a community reaches a certain density of people living next to one another, keeping people responsible for following permitting and building rules is important.

“I do think the planning commission … has done quite a bit of work on this, and it is born out of problems, and quite a few of them,” she said. “And so this seems like a reasonable solution.”

Also at Monday’s council meeting, Homer Mayor Ken Castner recognized Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, as Brother Asaiah Bates Day. Bates was a former council member and a well-known character in Homer, credited with coining the phrase “Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea.” Bates was known for his measured approach and ability to bring people together from all political and moral backgrounds.

“Everybody was his sister and brother and he brought a lot of temperance to the whole community at the time he was alive,” Castner said. “So on Feb. 14, while you’re having a nice dinner with your sweeties, I hope that you fondly remember the temperance of Asaiah Bates.”

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

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