Development in Homer is about to change. At its regular meeting last Monday, Oct. 24, the Homer City Council adopted an amended Ordinance 22-68 which permits more uses within some zoning districts.
This ordinance, referred to the council by the Homer Planning Commission, made changes to city code regarding conditional uses within the Rural Residential, Urban Residential, Residential Office, Central Business, Town Center, Gateway Business, General Commercial 1 and 2, and East End Mixed Use Districts.
One major change is that now “up to four dwelling units, excluding mobile homes, on a lot,” are allowed as permitted uses in Rural Residential Districts. In Urban Residential, Residential Office, Central Business, and Gateway Business Districts “up to four buildings on a lot for use as dwelling units” are now allowed as a permitted use.
This changes the previous code which had required citizens to gain approval for many of these formerly conditional uses. City Manager Rob Dumouchel described the ordinance as a “streamlining” effort. He said that many of those uses formerly listed as conditional were continuously being approved without conflict, citing a study of the past 10 years of approvals.
“If we never say no, why make it harder for people to build a house?” Dumouchel asked when rationalizing the changes.
Frank Griswold, a city resident, disagreed with the ordinance in his public comments. He said the ordinance does nothing to meet housing needs, but instead “denies members of the general public the opportunity to voice their concerns at public hearings.” Changing conditional uses to permitted uses also categorically shifts the uses from appealable to nonappealable, according to Griswold.
Another citizen, Rika Mouw, said “the blanket approach to the ordinance in each zoning district defies the fact that within zoning districts, land conditions and infrastructure capacities can be quite different, and have very different consequences.”
Council member Rachel Lord spoke about the rationale behind the ordinance, saying, “It does seem a little potentially presumptuous to be like, ‘Well, it’s not been a problem before …’”
Helen Gustafson also spoke as a citizen, saying she opposed the ordinance.
“I oppose amending current city code to allow up to four buildings on a lot for use as dwelling units. … Recently there has been unbelievable development in the Homer area — I believe too much and too fast,” she said.
Council member Carolyn Venuti agreed with this sentiment.
“Yeah this is a troublesome for me, because I’ve been here for so long, and I don’t say I don’t want growth, but I don’t think our roads are ready for it. … It kind of scares me in a way,” she said.
Dumouchel continued to support the ordinance.
“This one feels pretty big, but in reality, like, we’re just moving a couple of uses per zone district,” he said.
Council member Jason Davis bolstered this perspective.
“When the vast majority of CUPs (conditional use permits) are for things that everyone wants and no one cares about, which is what this ordinance is trying to address, then you end up with a situation where there aren’t any reasonable real conditions to put on it, because it’s just a completely reasonable use. … I personally support this change. I think it’s common sense,” he said.
Total discussion around this ordinance lasted for almost an hour. Finally, it was adopted with four of the five present council members voting in favor and only council member Venuti opposing.
In other action, the council considered a batch of ordinances scheduled for the Oct. 10 meeting, but that had to be rescheduled for public hearings at the Oct. 24 meeting because a production error at the Homer News caused public notices not to be printed. The council took these actions on the ordinances:
• Postponed to Nov. 14 Ordinance 22-42(S)(A) and (S-2), An Ordinance of the City Council of Homer, Alaska Amending city code to clarify that all new streets which serve as public access corridors shall have sidewalks.
• Adopted Ordinance 22-62, amending the Fiscal Year Operating Budget by appropriating $10,000 from the General Fund Unassigned Fund Balance to fund part of the Homer Business Advisory Position for the Alaska Small Business Development Center, and authorizing the City Manager to negotiate and execute the appropriate documents.
• Adopted Ordinance 22-63, amending, Accepting and appropriating a grant with the Alaska Energy Authority in the amount of $79,500 for the design of a micro-hydro unit in Homer’s water system and authorizing a sole source contract to InPipe Energy for design services of the micro-hydro unit(s) in the amount of $79,500.
• Adopted Ordinance 22-64, accepting and appropriating a FY23 Designated Legislative Grant from the State of Alaska for the purpose of new large vessel harbor matching funds for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers general investigation and authorizing the City Manager to negotiate and execute the appropriate documents.
• Adopted Ordinance 22-65, amending the FY23 capital budget by accepting and appropriating a 2022 Commercial Passenger Vessel Tax Program Grant from the State of Alaska for $35,445 and a Commercial Passenger Vessel Tax Program 2022 Pass-Through Grant from the Kenai Peninsula Borough in the amount of $35,445 to rebuild crane #7 on Homer Fish Dock and authorizing the City Manager tonegotiate and execute the appropriate documents.
• Adopted Ordinance 22-66, amending the FY23 Capital Budget by appropriating $69,110 from the Port Reserve Fund to Rebuild Crane #7 on Homer Fish Dock and authorizing a sole source contract with Great Northern Hydraulics, LLC.
The council also introduced Ordinance 22-72, amending city code regarding animals at large by redefining the term “at large” and clarify where animals are to be on leash at all times. The ordinance was postponed to the Nov. 28 meeting and referred to the Parks, Art, Recreation and Culture Advisory Commission.
In other council action, Clark Fair and Peter Roedl were both reappointed to the Parks, Art, Recreation and Culture Advisory Commission.
The next Homer City Council Regular Meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 14 in the Cowles Council Chambers.
Reach Charlie Menke at firstname.lastname@example.org.