Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the date of the next Homer City Council meeting. The date is Monday, April 8.
The Homer City Council will consider whether to rescind an ordinance it passed at its last meeting that would extend city water services to one lot in Kachemak City to support a low income housing project being planned there.
Council member Donna Aderhold wants to revisit the topic since confusion unfolded surrounding a letter sent by the Kachemak City Mayor Bill Overway to Homer Mayor Ken Castner on March 19 on the subject of Homer water being extended to Kachemak City, but was not shared with the council until March 28. Aderhold had expressed her reservations at the March 26 meeting about voting on the ordinance without something in writing from Kachemak City.
The ordinance, passed at the March 26 meeting by a vote of 4-3, with Castner breaking a 3-3 tie, authorizes the city to accept $100,000 in service fees from East End Partners LLC, a company that is constructing affordable housing units on Lot 28, Puffin Acres in Kachemak City. It is located at Mile 3 East End Road, where a water line exists but is not being used by Kachemak City lots. The company “needs access to a reliable water source,” according to the ordinance text.
The ordinance states that this one-time agreement does not change the existing city policy of not selling any city water outside of city limits.
Castner made the Kachemak council letter public through the Homer city clerk on March 28, along with a letter he had sent back to Kachemak City Mayor Bill Overway detailing what had happened since March 19. The Kachemak council letter laid out the wishes of Kachemak City in terms of a proposal for extending Homer water to Kachemak City lots. In the letter, the Kachemak City Council expressed that they didn’t want to allow water to go to one lot but not the others.
However, the letter does not specifically address the ordinance that Homer’s council voted on. It does not state whether the Kachemak council specifically approved of or opposed that move. It’s for that reason that Castner said in an interview that he didn’t immediately share the letter with his council. From his perspective, the letter had nothing to do with the ordinance the council was preparing to vote on, he said.
Castner said he would have shared the letter if it had included an opposition or support of the water extension ordinance specifically that the council voted on at their March 26 meeting. Castner also said he considered the letter to be retracted shortly after he received it.
Castner described calling Overway shortly after finding the letter on his desk at City Hall on March 19. In that phone call, Casnter said he asked Overway to retract the letter and send him one that specifically addressed the water service ordinance. Castner said Overway told him over the phone that a new letter would be on its way to him.
Since a second letter never arrived, Castner said he considered the first one retracted. He told the Homer council at their March 26 meeting that the absence of a letter is considered non objection.
According to an email from City Clerk Melissa Jacobsen, city code does not specifically require the mayor or city council members to share communications they get from other city governments.
Aderhold said she wants to revisit this issue because she feels Homer’s council wasn’t as informed as they could have been when they voted on the ordinance.
“Seeing the letter particularly from Kachemak City made me realize that we didn’t have all the information when we made our decision,” she said. “… It’s clear from the letter, to me, that they wanted to treat all lots equally.”
Aderhold said she contacted Jacobsen to ask what the options were for revisiting the issue. She said a rule was found in Robert’s Rules of Order that addresses rescinding an ordinance. Essentially, if an ordinance has been passed by a vote, but the action it describes hasn’t taken place yet, it can be rescinded, Aderhold explained.
For example, if the transaction of the city accepting the $100,000 from East End Partners had already happened, the ordinance could no longer be rescinded. The Homer council will have a discussion about potentially rescinding the ordinance at its meeting on Monday, April 8.
Castner said he wants the council to have the discussion, but that there are laws about how to change ordinances once they themselves become law. Once the effective date has passed for an ordinance, he said, it is in the city’s code and can only be changed by another ordinance.
To deal with the fallout of their letter and the Homer council’s vote to extend water services to the low income housing lot, the Kachemak City Council held an emergency meeting on Monday, April 1. There, it voted to send a letter of non objection to Homer regarding that water extension to one of their lots.
To deal with the remaining 15 lots that could benefit from Homer city water, the Kachemak council is working on a resolution to establish a process for negotiating with the city of Homer. The council made several edits to the resolution before tabling it until their next meeting.
At the meeting, Overway said both he and Castner had made mistakes. He expressed optimism, though, that Homer’s administration seems more willing to negotiate allowing Kachemak City residents to hook up to Homer water than previous administrations have been.
“This is the first time that I know of that we’ve had a mayor (of Homer) that has been willing to look at, and work with Kachemak City,” Overway said.
Kachemak City Council member Jeanne Walker said that the consensus of the Kachemak council’s last meeting was that they didn’t approve of allowing Homer water to one lot but not the others. This is why the council sent the letter to Homer that it did, she said.
However, most Kachemak council members concluded that it would be best to let the low income housing lot go, and move on to deal with a plan for negotiating Homer water for the remaining 15 lots. Kachemak City residents present at the Monday meeting urged the council to protect the interests of their city and come up with something that would be fair for Kachemak City lot owners wanting to hook up to Homer water.