Lighthouse Village development public hearing to continue next week

A special Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Jan. 3

Discussion on the potential construction of a hotel complex on Homer Spit Road will continue at a special Planning Commission meeting next week, after a Dec. 6 planning meeting addressing the topic reached its legal time limit with only about half of public testimonies heard.

The Jan. 3 special meeting will discuss all matters on the agenda interrelated to Doyon, Limited’s application to construct the complex, which would include an 80,000-square-foot hotel with 85 guest rooms on three floors; an accompanying three-story, dormitory-style employee housing unit; and five triplex condo developments.

According to a presentation given to the planning commission by Patrick Duke, senior vice president and chief financial officer for Doyon, three of the triplex condos would be marketed for sale, and the other two would be affiliated with the hotel as “short-stay” units. The proposed hotel design also includes a “partial” fourth floor incorporating a rooftop bar.

Rezoning requests

Items on the planning commission agenda include a conditional use permit request for a planned unit development at 1563 Homer Spit Road, 1663 Homer Spit Road and 1491 Bay Avenue; an application for the rural residential property at 1491 Bay Avenue to be rezoned to General Commercial 1; a request for a right of way vacation at B Street south of Bay Avenue; and consideration of a preliminary plat for all parcels included in the Bayview Subdivision Lighthouse Village site.

The lots at 1563 Homer Spit Road and 1663 Homer Spit Road are already zoned General Commercial 1. The rezone application given to the Planning Commission for consideration “is an ordinance to propose a zoning map amendment to move the General Commercial 1 district boundary to the west, to encompass the subject lot at 1491 Bay Avenue,” City Planner Ryan Foster said during his presentation at the meeting.

Foster also noted the rezoning is “necessary to allow for mixed-use development” on the property owned by Doyon, Limited.

According to Foster, the Planning Commission is the deciding authority for the conditional use permit, or CUP. However, decision authority for the rezoning application and vacation of right of way lies with the Homer City Council.

“The Planning Commission is comment-only,” Foster said during his presentation. “Only the council has approval authority on rezones, and that would require a separate public hearing with the council.”

City staff’s current stance on the rezoning is to recommend approval to the city council.

Doyon’s application also includes a re-plat of the Bayview Subdivision Lighthouse Village, which accompanies the vacation of the B Street right of way south of Bay Avenue and reconfigures the three smaller lots that currently make up Doyon’s property into two larger lots, according to Foster.

“The preliminary plat would be the mechanism by which the property boundaries would legally change across all three of these properties and the vacation of right of way,” he said.

Platting approval authority lies with the Kenai Peninsula Borough, not the City of Homer. The Planning Commission would only provide comments to the borough on this matter.

Community pushback

Seventeen individuals from the Homer area testified either in person or by Zoom during the public hearing for Staff Report 23-060, regarding the conditional use permit for Doyon’s planned unit development. At the time the Dec. 6 meeting went over the legal time limit and the commission voted to continue the hearing to Jan. 3, at least a dozen more community members were waiting to testify.

One of the public’s main concerns is related to traffic conditions on Ocean Drive heading toward the Homer Spit.

“Ocean Drive and Bay Avenue do not need more traffic,” Homer resident Amy Springer said. “But they’re going to get it. What we need is to slow some traffic down somehow in that area.”

A traffic impact analysis report was done for the Lighthouse Village development by Kinney Engineering, LLC. The final report is dated Nov. 18.

Susan Cushing, resident on Bay Avenue, raised concerns to the commission that the traffic study was conducted in September — after Homer’s peak tourist season, which sees the height of traffic coming on and off the Spit.

“To say that the traffic study is pertinent based on September traffic — I’m sorry, let’s have a traffic study done in June, July and August,” she said.

City resident Tammy Schraeder said similarly, “The traffic impact was done on Sept. 13, which is just a ridiculous time to do any kind of traffic study here in Homer. They should do it on July 4, or on a Saturday, to get true numbers.”

Schraeder also voiced her concern, shared by several other people who testified, regarding the Saturday farmers market and the difficulty community members already face trying to exit the market onto Ocean Drive.

Commenters also pointed out potential public safety issues related to the development.

In written comments submitted to the commission on Dec. 5, Homer resident Lani Raymond wrote, “Safety should be a factor in planning. This area is within the tsunami zone and too many people concentrated right there at the base of the spit would also drastically impact the evacuation of the whole spit.”

City resident Kathryn Carssow wrote in comments submitted to the commission on Dec. 6, “I believe there needs to be a hazard risk analysis, given the location of the development in the tsunami zone, along with an emergency evacuation analysis and plan. My concern is that in the event of a tsunami alert, the development will further compound the already heavy traffic congestion we currently experience and, in the event of an earthquake and tsunami, substantially increase the risk to life and property.”

Several comments also expressed concerns about the size of the planned unit development.

Bay Avenue resident Richard Rosenbloom said that he was “so happy, initially, and excited” when Doyon purchased Lighthouse Village.

“I’m now deeply disillusioned and disappointed,” he said during the public hearing. “Doyon, Limited is proposing a too-dense, multi-use planned development, the centerpiece of which is a too-large, cookie-cutter-designed shoebox hotel, the butt end of which is to be rammed into an established neighborhood after clear-cutting and essentially strip-mining a rural residential lot and blocking the only remaining public access to the views of the northeast Mariner Park Lagoon and its wildlife.”

Raymond wrote that she is “not opposed to such a facility being built,” but the Lighthouse Village site is not an appropriate location for it.

“I also would not be opposed if it were a smaller, more reasonable development,” she wrote.

Environmental impact

Several community members pointed out negative environmental impacts that the proposed development could cause to the surrounding area, including the Mariner Park Lagoon, the tidal-influenced wetland area just south of the property. The lagoon is inhabited by a great diversity of wildlife and, importantly, is part of the Kachemak Bay Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.

“If the construction and operations of the proposed large-footprint, high-density development is not done carefully, they could irreparably alter the coastal wetland habitat that has been recognized for its international importance through designation as a unit of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) in which the City of Homer is a major landowner partner,” Marilyn Sigman, who is annually involved with the Shorebird Festival, wrote to the commission. “The quality of the habitat within the WHSRN, and its use by migrating birds, has fortunately been sustained, so far, by the absence of the type of human impacts that have reduced habitat for coastal migrant birds elsewhere.”

“Migrating birds need Mariner Lagoon. The proposed facility is too close and it would disrupt birds feeding and resting there during migration times and other times. Disruption would be caused by large numbers of people, vehicles, increased noise, and light pollution at night,” wrote Raymond. “Discharge of runoff water from the facility into the lagoon could also be a major problem.”

Public Works director Jan Keiser also made a request regarding the project potential environmental impact on the B Street right of way.

“Over half of the city right of way is currently tidal marsh. That’s undevelopable, and we ask that this condition be preserved in perpetuity via a conservation easement. We want to make sure that the existing integrity of that tidal marsh as a nesting area for sandhill cranes, which I have personally witnessed nesting out there, is preserved through a conservation easement,” she said during the meeting.

Schraeder also recalled to the council that the Lighthouse Village site previously housed a boat storage facility and an automotive repair shop. She voiced several concerns regarding chemicals found in the soil analysis done on the property, including trichlorobenzene, carbon tetrachloride, isopropyl toluene and Freon.

“What are you going to do about soil remediation?” she asked the commission. “I think the soil samples need to absolutely be addressed, for the safety and health of our community and the people that live next door that are going to be exposed.”

Keiser agreed with Schraeder and echoed her concerns.

“I know that, once exposed, (those chemicals) could have impact,” she said. “So I will go back and study that.”

Wrangling over rights of way

The Lighthouse Village site also used to contain a viewing platform, frequently used by birders during the Shorebird Festival and as a sampling site for the Kachemak Bay Birders’ Citizen Science shorebird monitoring project. The platform and its interpretive signs were “removed without notice to the community” by Doyon, according to Sigman, when the property was cleared earlier this year. Community members would like Doyon to put it back.

“Despite all the glowing descriptions of how ‘green’ this development proposal is, I find it lacking in integration with the important role this area plays in our summer visitor infrastructure, especially the Shorebird Festival,” Nina Faust, co-founder of Kachemak Crane Watch, wrote in comments submitted to the commission on Dec. 4. “The birding platform Doyon removed was one of the very important Shorebird Viewing stations at the base of the Spit. Visitors and residents frequented that platform in early spring to watch shorebird flocks, nesting cranes, and waterfowl.”

City residents also spoke against the request to vacate the B Street right of way, which contains a well-used pedestrian path and public access to the wetland area. Several argued that the public access to the wetlands should be maintained, and that the shorebird viewing platform could be rebuilt in the right of way.

“A city right of way, whether it’s used as a road or not, is a valuable public property interest,” Keiser said. “If the public is going to give up that right, it has a reasonable expectation of some appropriate accommodation.

“The right of way allows potential access, at least for viewing of that tidal marsh area, which is a rich resource for the city. There used to be a viewing platform that was accessible to the public on that property, and it was demolished. We ask that a new public viewing platform be constructed, and access provided to it,” she said.

Homer city staff’s current recommendation to the commission, according to Foster, is to “recommend approval of this vacation (to the city council), contingent on public access being dedicated.”

Proposed mitigations

Lauren Egbert, registered architect with Womer & Associates based in Spokane, Washington, noted in Doyon’s presentation that they intend to “utilize the grades” of the property in order to “reduce the scale” of the proposed development, so as not to impede the neighborhood that lies on the west border of the site.

“So from Bay Avenue, you would only see two stories (of the employee housing unit) rather than the three from the hotel side, so it kind of brings it down in scale for the residential neighborhood,” she said. “We would also include a site obscuring wall that would continue down the west side of our property, as well as a landscape barrier to protect and create a separation from the rural residential zone that would be on the west side of our lot.”

Egbert also said that Doyon conducted a wetland jurisdiction study “to make sure we are staying out of the tidal-influenced wetland area” that lies south of the property.

“We want to make sure that we’re respecting the sensitive areas,” she said. “We did a wetland jurisdiction study so we can understand where the limits of those wetlands would start and stop, so that way we can ensure that we stay out of those.”

Doyon’s plan also incorporates some recommended pedestrian provisions, and the company has “coordinated in depth” with Homer’s Public Works department to ensure the site’s existing utilities are sufficient and to understand the storm water conditions that occur at Bay Avenue and B Street, according to Egbert’s presentation.

“We’re proposing a system that would collect that (storm)water, distribute it into our site, and then we would pipe it down to the tidal-influenced wetlands below to the south of us,” she said. “The flow rate would match pre-development conditions.”

Getting informed

A common frustration expressed by audience members testifying during the meeting or those who submitted written comments was the short time frame provided to review the “huge volume” of information and materials for the Doyon project. Aside from running over the legal time limit, the commission voted to continue the public hearing to allow both the public and the commissioners time to more thoroughly review the materials, and to give the public a “better opportunity to be heard.”

City planner Foster did clarify that notice for the public hearing and posting of the informational materials on the city website was done according to city code.

The full recording of the Dec. 6 meeting, as well as informational materials relating to Doyon, Limited’s application and written comments submitted by the public, are available at

The Planning Commission’s meeting on Jan. 3 will be held in the Homer City Hall Cowles Council Chambers. Community members may also attend by phone or by Zoom.

The former Lighthouse Village property, now owned by Doyon Inc. and the proposed site for the construction of a large hotel complex, is photographed on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023 in Homer, Alaska. (Delcenia Cosman/Homer News)

The former Lighthouse Village property, now owned by Doyon Inc. and the proposed site for the construction of a large hotel complex, is photographed on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023 in Homer, Alaska. (Delcenia Cosman/Homer News)

A map showing the proposed rezoning of a rural residential lot to general commerical 1 was part of a presentation to the planning commission and the public by city planner Ryan Foster on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 in the Homer City Hall Cowles Council Chambers in Homer, Alaska. Screenshot.

A map showing the proposed rezoning of a rural residential lot to general commerical 1 was part of a presentation to the planning commission and the public by city planner Ryan Foster on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 in the Homer City Hall Cowles Council Chambers in Homer, Alaska. Screenshot.

The site map for the proposed development at the former Lighthouse Village was shown to the planning commission and attendees of the public hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 in the Homer City Hall Cowles Council Chambers in Homer, Alaska. Screenshot.

The site map for the proposed development at the former Lighthouse Village was shown to the planning commission and attendees of the public hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 in the Homer City Hall Cowles Council Chambers in Homer, Alaska. Screenshot.