For three years, Homer condominium owners tried to get the Homer City Council to listen to us regarding the city’s natural gas line assessments. There are laws regarding the assessing of condominium property, but when we approached Mr. Klinkner, Mr. Wrede and Homer City Council members, we were told, over and over, we were wrong.
Condo owners did not want to start a legal battle over something so obvious, but no one listened. When we spoke at city council meetings, Bryan Zak was the only council member to work with us, ask questions and try to understand our argument. In the meetings, he was the only one to question the council’s position. Mr. Burgess and Mr. Lewis vigorously led the opposition.
Ken Castner found himself embroiled in this mess because he owned condos. He took our case to court himself …. and won. At this point, there were no legal fees. When Castner filed his suit, many of the council members did not even pick up their legal notice. I can only assume they never read why they were being sued. But even when the city lost and was ordered by the court to correct the ordinance, the city ignored the order and only changed Mr. Castner’s assessment.
Why did the council go along with any of this?
Mr. Castner could have walked away when his assessments were corrected. But he didn’t. He had already spent a year fighting the city. This time, he hired an attorney and started the noncompliance battle. Under threat of sanction for noncompliance and the refusal of the Supreme Court to hear the city’s continued argument, the city finally complied.
In awarding the legal fees, I hope everyone understands Mr. Castner is still “out of pocket,” because he only receives about $100 of the $42,500. He receives nothing for his two years of time and his expenses for legal research. Imagine the cost had condo owners hired a legal firm at the very beginning of this battle, instead of trying to reason with “our” council. Perhaps Mayor Wythe might have made a difference, but she recused herself from all natural gas line discussions.
If we had a council that truly listened, we might have avoided all of this. I will always wonder if any of the council even tried to research and inform themselves. Why did no one begin to question the city’s position when so many of us contacted the council? Did they only listen to the city attorney?
I personally thank Mr. Castner for everything he did. I know there are a couple of hundred condo owners who feel the same. Ken had the load of speaking for all us. Had those owners filed a suit, the expense of taking this unnecessary mess to court would have been huge.
Thank you, Ken Castner.
One of Homer’s many condo owners