Council resolves HERC membership; talks recent Pride controversy

The Homer Education and Recreation Complex Task Force finally has solid membership after being formed as a body in April.

The Homer City Council voted unanimously at its Monday meeting to expand task force membership to eight voting seats from its previous seven. When Mayor Bryan Zak originally selected seven members from the pool of applicants, there was pushback from the community, especially from members of the Parks, Art, Culture and Recreation Advisory Commission, who said they had thought their group was guaranteed a seat at the table.

The resolution that established the task force stated that the body could have up to one member of PARCAC filling a seat. The resolution passed Monday amended that to specifically include a member of PARCAC, who in this case is Deb Lowney.

There was also a possible resolution for substitution on the agenda, which would have added a member of PARCAC and a member of the council to the HERC Task Force as advisory, non-voting members. Originally brought forth by council member Shelly Erickson, that substitution died for lack of a motion on Monday.

Other action taken at Monday’s meeting served to tighten up the standards for recreational vehicles on the Homer Spit, an issue the city has been working on since it was discovered that an RV park located on the Spit was technically in violation of city zoning code. That park and other Spit businesses also had RVs that owners or employees lived in during the summer.

The city has been exploring since this time last year the options for expanding city code to allow motorhomes on the Spit for caretaker use. Earlier this year, after much debate and kicking the issue to the Planning and Zoning Advisory Commission for review, the council voted to enact Ordinance 18-04. It officially allowed recreational vehicles in the Marine Commercial and Marine Industrial zoning districts for the use of housing business caretakers or their employees.

“There are many commercial and industrial entities which have expressed interest in locating recreational vehicles on their work premises for the purpose of housing employees,” the ordinance text states. “… It is in the City’s best interest to support employer-provided housing so long as that housing does not place the City of Homer, its residents, and/or its citizens at risk.”

At its Monday meeting, council members voted unanimously to enact Ordinance 18-12, which sets standards for the recreational vehicles that will now be allowed on the Spit. According to the ordinance, a property owner on the Spit may not have more than one employee-occupied recreational vehicle per lot.

“An employee-occupied recreational vehicle must be a self-contained recreational vehicle and must have a receptacle approved by law for collection of liquid and semi-solid wastes,” the standards read. “While the employee-occupied recreational vehicle is parked on the property, it must be parked in a manner that will not create a dangerous or unsafe condition on the lot or adjacent properties.”

If the user of a recreation vehicle on the Spit wants to hook up to municipal water and sewer directly, they will need to get written approval from the public works director.

The council set up a zoning permit that will be required and that will allow employee-occupied recreational vehicles to be in use for no more than 180 consecutive days per year.

In a memo to the council, City Planner Rick Abboud said the planning commission made amendments and suggestions to the ordinance after an April public hearing.

“While no motion was recorded regarding the amount of the fee, the Planning Office recommends consideration of a fee of at least $100 annually,” Abboud wrote.

Elephant in the room

The work completed at Monday’s council meeting had originally been scheduled for June 11. That meeting was canceled when Erickson, Heath Smith and Tom Stroozas pulled out of the meeting the day of, causing there to be a lack of a quorum. The three members declared absences due to a concern that a mayoral recognition of Pride Month that was on the agenda would cause too much controversy, they said at the time.

Because the June 11 meeting was canceled, those who had planned to attend and testify about the mayoral recognition were unable to do so. Several of them showed up to do just that on Monday night. People like David Lewis, a former city council member, mentioned that the three dissenting council members could have reacted differently to the mayoral recognition.

“That meeting should have been held. If you did not have a quorum, fine, the meeting ends. But it just should not have been canceled,” he said. “And for forms of protest, you do not need to stop city business to protest.”

Several commenters on both sides of the issue used the same point in their arguments: the city council and mayor are supposed to represent the entire resident population, not just those who voted for them. Those against the mayoral recognition said they felt its being included on the meeting agenda was a sign that the city was not representing their beliefs and wishes. Those who were against the meeting being canceled scolded the three council members who did not show up, saying they have a duty to show up and listen to all their constituents on any given issue.

Roxy Lawver cited the fact that, because the June 11 meeting was canceled, she didn’t have an opportunity to show up and speak against the recognition. She quoted a passage from Romans in the Bible that described homosexuality as against nature.

“As a Christian, I follow what the Bible says about the lifestyle — and that’s what I’m calling it on purpose — advocated that day,” she said. “… My mantra from the beginning is that government is overreaching their authority and speaking for the town of Homer as a whole. Government has no business advocating lifestyle, and stating that that lifestyle should be celebrated. Celebrated? Is this, Mr. Mayor, what the larger percentage of Homer celebrate?”

Lawver said she had no problem with members of the LGBTQ community having a march, but that she didn’t approve of the mayor speaking for all of Homer.

Cassie Lawburn said that the actions of Erickson, Smith and Stroozas made her feel heard “for the first time.”

“I know it was a hard decision,” she said. “I know you guys were getting a lot of Facebook messages, phone calls and stuff from the conservative (people), because I was one of them. I don’t know if what you did was wrong or right, but I do know that what you did, at least I felt like I was being heard from the council.”

Hal Spence, a member of Citizens’ AKtion Network, started out by saying that democracy is messy and that controversy is a possibility inherent in its practice.

“Trepidation about what might manifest at any particular meeting can be no pretext for declining to participate,” he said. “… No ideas ought to be silenced merely because they fail to fit someone’s comfort zone. If governments belong to anyone, they must belong to everyone.”

Kris Holderied expressed her disappointment in the fact that the meeting was canceled.

“I was frankly shocked that three council members acted to torpedo a city council meeting, particularly since it appears to have been done in response to a request from a lot of people outside of our community,” she said. “… Council meetings are fundamentally where we do the business of our community, where we make the decisions in our community, and particularly when there’s disagreement, right? This is the public forum where we do that stuff. So I don’t think it matters what the issue is — we shouldn’t hijack our local government process for whatever personal biases there might be. … We should be working it out here.”

Only two council members, Donna Aderhold and Rachel Lord, addressed the issue at the meeting.

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