In two actions on Monday night, the Homer City Council loosened up restrictions for a West Hill Road area subdivision and put up for sale several lots in the city’s inventory, including some parcels in that subdivision, the Lillian Walli subdivision.
The first action, Resolution 15-032, released a development covenant that required property owners in the 80-lot subdivision to build roads, water and sewer, drainage and other utilities in the entire subdivision before building permits could be issued. Passing as part of the consent agenda and with no objection, the resolution allows building permits to be issued when roads and other utilities are built per lot or tract.
More controversial were amendments to the city’s 2015 Land Allocation Plan. Updated yearly, the plan designates how city land should be used, what land can be leased and what land can go up for sale. On motions from council member Beau Burgess, the council added some parcels in the “for sale” category. Added are:
• Lots c-7 in the land plan, four 10-acre lots west of Kachemak Drive assessed in 2009 at $81,600 total;
• Lots e-6, eight lots in the Walli Subdivision assessed in 2006 for $56,000 total;
• Lot e-22, a sliver of land along Kachemak Drive near Campbell Lane assessed in 2009 at $18,200; and
• Lots e-23, a 5-acre and a .39-acre lot along Kachemak Drive near Three-Mile Way assessed in 2009 at $72,300 and $23,800.
The council also asked city staff to look at a city lot on Virginia Lynn Way to dedicate as access.
Lots c-7, the four 10-acre lots, are in wetlands with limited or no access. In making his amendment to sell the lots, Burgess said that the city has zoned a lot of the land in the area for commercial development, including those lots. If the city doesn’t zone the area as conservation lands, it should sell it, he argued.
“We have a huge inventory of land which we can’t figure out what to do with,” Burgess said.
Council member Francie Roberts noted the land is near moose habitat and with little access, saw no reason to sell it.
“They’re fine just the way they are,” she said.
Council member David Lewis also objected to selling the land.
“We never know what the future holds for the land, and they don’t make it any more,” he said. “As you well know, the more you own, the better you are off.”
On a vote to offer it for sale, Burgess’ amendment tied 3-3, with Burgess, Gus VanDyke and Bryan Zak voting yes and Roberts, Lewis and Catriona Reynolds voting no. Mayor Beth Wythe broke the tie and voted yes.
The council voted the same on lots e-23, two other Kachemak Drive parcels. Because those lots are near private property, Burgess said he thought local landowners might want to purchase the land. Again, Wythe broke the tie.
The other amendments to the land allocation plan, and the plan itself, passed without objection. Wythe praised selling the city’s lots in the Walli subdivision.
“I can tell you this is a really high priority for me, getting those eight lots out of the city and onto the tax roll,” Wythe said.
In comments of the audience, Nancy Hillstrand objected to the land sales. Identifying herself as “a lobbyist for fish and birds,” Hillstrand urged the council to look at habitat value of the land.
“We forget about the other creatures that live in this city. We’re going to pave paradise,” she said. “Remember the fish. Remember the wildlife. If you hunt, remember the moose.”
Ironically, one of the parcels the city put up for sale, e-22, the .25-acre sliver of land along Kachemak Drive, is partially between Kachemak Drive and to Hillstrand’s bluff property.
Speaking as a member of the audience, Burgess also made a pitch for the city selling him some land along Shellfish Avenue next to the home he owns with his father, Tony Burgess. The city set the land aside for a water tank, and Burgess asked to acquire some of the land not used for the tank project, but the council did not act on his request.
In other action, the council:
• Passed an ordinance appropriating $30,000, with $7,000 to be added to a match for homeowners on Cottonwood Lane and Fireweed Avenue for improvements to those roads;
• Introduced an ordinance amending city code regarding levy of assessments of property subject to the natural gas distribution assessements.
• Approved a reappointment of Amy Alderfer to the Library Advisory Board;
• Appropriated $8,500 to Aha Consulting for website design and software upgrades;
• Adopted a city social media policy, city website terms and conditions, and a city website links policy, all recommendations of Homer City Manager Katie Koester;
• Approved a memorandum of understanding with the Pratt Museum for interpretive signage on the Homer Spit Trail;
• Awarded a $3,400 contract for hazardous waste survey of the old harbormaster’s office to Satori Group, Anchorage, and
• Approved an agreement for professional mentorship services with MY:T Solutions, a firm owned by former acting city manager Marvin Yoder, at the rate of $500 a day up to $5,000.
The natural gas assessment ordinance is not related to the Castner v. City of Homer issue. That amendment to the natural gas assessment plan stipulates the fee a new parcel is assessed if a lot is subdivided. Lots created from the original lot pay a connection fee equal to the assessment, with payments allocated to each property assessed in proportion to the amount originally assessed. That ordinance was introduced Monday night, and goes up for a public hearing and second reading at the next meeting of the council starting at 6 p.m. May 11 in the Cowles Council Chambers, Homer City Hall.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.