Council considers West Hill rezoning

East side of lower West Hill would be rezoned to urban residential

A rezoning of the lower West Hill area moved forward at the Homer City Council’s meeting on Monday, June 27. Without objection, the council introduced Ordinance 22-35, amending the Homer City Rezoning Map to change the area east of lower West Hill Road from rural residential to urban residential zoning.

With the council taking a summer break, the ordinance comes up for a second reading and public hearing at its July 25 meeting in the Cowles Council Chambers, Homer City Hall.

“The planning commission spent a lot of time on this issue, and held a public hearing that received quite a lot of feedback, particularly from property owners on the west side of West Hill,” said Council member Donna Aderhold. “And so it’s something that I will be very interested in hearing more from residents as we move this forward to the next meeting.”

The rezone covers the area south of lots on Reber Road and east of West Hill Road all the way to the Soundview Avenue area, merging with an area already zoned urban residential. That area has seen tremendous growth over the past five years, with new subdivision roads built on the lower east side of West Hill.

According to a memorandum from City Manager Rob Dumouchel, the 2008 version of the Comprehensive Plan recommended rezoning both sides of lower West Hill Road, but when it came before the Homer Planning Commission, strong opposition from west-side residents swayed the commission to recommend rezoning only the east side.

The major change from rural residential to urban residential would be increased housing density. Rural residential lots are limited to one dwelling unit per 10,000 square feet and urban residential lots allow one unit per 7,500 square feet. Urban residential zoning also allows duplexes and 3- and 4-unit complexes. Rural residential also allows agricultural uses like greenhouses, truck farming and nurseries. A fact sheet on the city’s website outlines the differences in the two zoning districts. The city website also has more information on the rezoning, including how to make public comments.

At the council meeting, members had no objection to introducing the rezone. Council member Jason Davis did ask about the process for considering adding the west side area into the rezone, and if that amendment should be made at the June 27 meeting. Mayor Ken Castner said that that night would be the time to make that amendment since it would be a major change and thus require a public hearing — the hearing already planned for July 25.

Council member Rachel Lord said that in her experience if such a major change was proposed, the council could add another public hearing later. Lord said the proposed rezone raises questions about how the city manages its land-use development.

“You know, one of my main concerns has been feeling like the city is five steps behind private development, and that’s a really junky place to be because we’re not forward thinking,” she said.

In a public comment at the end of the meeting, Karin Marks also noted that lack of forward thinking.

“From my perspective, the east end area that’s looking at rezoning — that’s just catch up,” she said. “It’s already built. It already looks urban, suburban — whatever you want to call it.”

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