Devoted to the Pratt Museum,
On behalf of the Board, the Staff and the Volunteers at the Pratt Museum I would like to personally thank the Patrons of the Pratt Society (POPS) for a generous grant of $45,500 to support our Botanical Garden and much needed upgrades to the parking lot as well as investing in converting the shop to natural gas. Over and over, POPS have demonstrated their commitment to the Museum. Investing in the Pratt Museum means a lot. Their financial support is especially helpful right now as we strive to make measurable changes in community conditions and improve lives by offering enrichment opportunities in developing healthy children, families and community through our exhibits, cultural programs, education, botanical gardens and natural history. Many thanks to each and every member of POPS for their fundraising, volunteering, and advocacy.
With kindest regards,
Executive Director, Pratt Museum
Voicing Concerns on Doyon Project
As Homer has grown over the past couple decades we’ve witnessed many transformations. Land prices have gone up, suburbia has crept in, Subarus have further disintegrated into unrecognizable rolling rust-chariots. That last bit may not be new, but what is new and advancing against local will at an alarming rate is Doyon’s Lighthouse Village Project.
The development would do irreparable damage to the community’s viewshed and the neighborhood of Bay Ave. Doyon’s pavement palace, despite being billed as some new “green commercial” building, is in fact, (and this is true), an ugly brick. Tourists come to Homer for its appeal as a rustic oceanfront setting. Residents moved here to participate in a long tradition of old duct taped-together Toyotas or to work in the fishing industry, or maybe just because they missed the ferry to Kodiak. But thanks to developments like this proposed hotel, Homer is exchanging the small-business values of the community that has loved it so dearly for something centered around a new one of big business.
Doyon claims that by being open year round (which they are not bound to), the hotel will support local housing— an issue that has come to the forefront post-COVID. But I don’t believe that the proposed “Lands End” style condos on the water and a 80,000 square foot hotel will do anything for the community to help with the housing crisis. Realtors estimate the condos to cost upwards of $1 million dollars. This is hardly in the price range of most residents, and will only drive up the cost of living in a town that already cannot support young workers. Doyon could build truly affordable, smaller housing units for current residents to make an actual lasting difference.
There are several other reasons the Doyon project doesn’t belong in Homer. The proposed plan would exacerbate already congested traffic in the summers at the corner of Kachemak Drive and Homer Spit Road. It would also damage a fragile ecosystem that supports the tourism industry, and threaten bird habitat that longtime local tourism businesses rely on— siphoning money from Homer and back into a billion dollar corporation. The taxes that the hotel would produce hardly compare to the revenue that would be lost by local B&Bs.
Know that this project can only happen if the Homer Planning Commission allows for special exceptions to the zoning rules (conditional use permit), and they are currently deliberating whether or not to grant these exceptions. The Planning Commission should not allow for these exceptions. If the city allows Doyon to circumvent the 20 year-old height and size restrictions on buildings it would set a dangerous precedent, and I believe that if they are going to support any major developments, it should be developments by members of the community and for members of the community. This is anything but that. The planning director should never have led Doyon to believe they could break all of the rules before any public comment, and as a result Doyon has unfortunately made premature investments based on these misguided conversations. It is now up to the planning commission to bring the development down to a scale that fits this community.
We were born and raised in Homer and both own small businesses here. We’ve watched many other young friends and entrepreneurs fail in recent years because they can’t afford housing here, in the place they were born. The dream of fishing a couple seasons and buying land is fading, and it is our responsibility to protect what we have left from irresponsible development that further drives up prices and harms the ecosystem we all rely on. If the city would like to support growth in the community there should be more of an effort to support businesses that already exist here and that are operated locally.
We would like to thank the planning commission for their service, and ask that they deny conditional use permit 23-08. We ask of Doyon that they show respect to our community and our values by redesigning their plans to fit the guidelines for General Commercial retail businesses that other Homer businesses have abided by, and that they not disturb our community by upending long standing rules with promises of money they plan to take from town itself.
We ask the city council to deny the proposed rezoning of rural residential and the vacation of right of way. This is not the site for something of this magnitude, and is unwelcome by the neighborhood surrounding it.
We ask our fellow Homerites to remember that this is not a done deal. Please talk to the Homer city council and the Mayor and voice your concerns over this project.
Doyon is welcome to reopen an auto body repair shop on the site, if they are sincere in their pledges to help the community.
Sammy Walker and Ella Parks
Homer Trails Alliance thanks the Homer Foundation
Homer Trails Alliance would like to express abundant gratitude to The Homer Foundation for a $5000 grant we received this month!
This grant was made possible by the Opportunity Fund, an unrestricted endowed fund managed by the Homer Foundation. HTA plans to use these funds to purchase an ATV that will be used for mowing trails and will be a huge help hauling supplies to our trail improvement and building projects.
Homer Foundation has distributed over $350,000 in grants and scholarships on the Southern Peninsula this year and we are so thankful to live in a community that gives back so generously.
President of Homer Trails Alliance
City should notify applicants of building hazards
It would be responsible for Homer city officials to provide all those applying for zoning permits with fair warnings. A simple indexed list could be provided of studies known to the city. Hazardous areas and conditions have long been identified in engineering studies done for the city. There are studies, also commissioned the city, saying where it is unsafe to build. There is no seeming agreement between city officials and the building public ablout height limits. All of those who were constrained to build under 35 feet, which include other hotels have a right to know why Doyon has been encouraged with a design over 50 feet. City regulation needs to be spelled out clearly and completely. Soon. This is an issue that the Advisory Planning Commission can only advise upon. They have no authority to approve, or disapprove.
The city, up-front, should fully inform all developers, such as Doyon, of what is known. When there is risk to life and safety, there is also potential liability if hotel guests are washed away in the flood. The function of government is first the safety of our community. And there is the implicit promise to our visitors that they are in a safe place. There were two twenty seawaves here, as described by the US Geological Survey, after the big ‘64 quake. These ran over the Spit from undersea collapses in the near offshore. These 20 foot waves, fortunately these happened at low tide, sixty years ago, when there was little development. Now if a wave came at high tide enormous destruction would occur. With our risky escape routes people could be trapped.
Homer City builder since 1975
Homer teens start GoFundMe fundraisers to pay way to 2024 Arctic Winter Games
A handful of teen athletes from Homer are asking for help covering their travel and entry costs for the 2024 Arctic Winter Games. Below are the links to all of their GoFundMe pages, each with a goal of $1,500.
The Arctic Winter Games is an international competition that brings together athletes from across the North to compete and participate in cultural sharing. This is the largest circumpolar multi-sport and cultural event, and can be considered the Olympics of the Arctic. The 2024 Arctic Winter Games will take place March 10-16, 2024 in the Mat-Su Valley.
Leah Evans will be competing in the Dene Games. These games are traditionally played by Dene (Northern Athasbascan) people. These games are rooted in their traditional and cultural values, especially their traditional subsistence lifestyle.
Joe, Charity, and Eli Gordon are also competing in the Dene Games.
GoFundMe Communications Manager & Spokesperson
Why voting to override the Governor’s education funding veto is a smart choice for Alaska’s legislature
This past session (2023), the Alaska legislature approved a one-time funding boost to K-12 public schools for $175 million. The last time the state added money to K-12 schools was in 2017.
In June, the Governor vetoed half the money that was to go to the schools. ($87.4 million)
The Governor’s 2024-25 budget currently has no money directed towards public education and has a billion-dollar deficit.
Why an override of the Governor’s education funding veto makes sense:
1. The money is available now.
2. School districts need this money now.
3. The legislative branch implemented the Alaska Reads Act in 2023 and many schools need a smaller teacher-student ratio to implement this program.
4. A shortage of paraprofessionals and special education teachers for students who need more individualized attention is occurring. Currently in the state, there are 36 openings for K-12 special education teachers. (https://www.alaskateacher.org/jobs/)
5. Schools provide food programs, availability of medical attention, counseling for various issues, continuing education pursuits, ability to assess child abuse and more. How a school functions has a huge impact on the health of its community.
6. Alaskans have been persistent/consistent with testimony in favor of funding education appropriately. Alaskans seem to be looking for more candidates who can find compromises.
7. School staff/students/communities would be overjoyed to get any support.
8. A vote to override the veto would show that all sides are willing to listen to each other. This could lead to more open discussions on the various ideas each party has in how to fund education.
9. With all the hardships in this world, can’t we be more helpful to one another? We need more love and understanding, rather than policies that restrict growth. Adding more money to education this month speaks to our commitment to support this message.
Let your representatives know that you are in favor of a vote to override the Governor’s education veto!
Cook Inlet Water Quality Summit presents updated program book
I hope everyone ended 2023 well and that 2024 is off to a great start. Thank you for your patience as we worked to update the Cook Inlet Water Quality Summit Program Book to include all the presentations and a summary of the Panel Discussion session. We had a slew of hurdles to overcome in getting this out to you (two major holidays, vacation schedules, two computers experiencing major malfunctions, and then issues compressing the file size small enough to post online), but we have finally prevailed and are excited to share the updated program book with you. It is now available at www.akwildlife.org/cook-inlet.
Also, we would be appreciative if you would take a few minutes to complete a post-summit survey so we can learn what worked, and what didn’t, and, should we decide to host another Summit in the future, some other logistical planning questions. Here’s the survey link: https://forms.gle/knFuCjn1xJSLJ77V7. Please complete the survey by January 31st.
Thank you, and here’s wishing everyone a joyful and gratitude-filled 2024.
Mandy Migura, on behalf of the Cook Inlet Water Quality Summit planning committee
Homer Food Pantry thanks community
Thanks to everyone who helps to support HCFP throughout the year! We appreciate YOU and all you do for us and the community of Homer.
HCFP Board Member
Remembering Carey Meyer
I was deeply saddened to learn about the recent passing of Carey Meyer. I had the pleasure of working closely with Carey for 12 years. I knew Carey to be a highly accomplished and experienced public servant who cared deeply about the community of Homer. I think his easy-going and unassuming personality, combined with his desire to avoid the spotlight and give credit to others, sometimes resulted in him being underestimated and underappreciated. Whenever we had a problem to solve or a big project to work on, it seemed like Carey was often the first person in my office asking what he could do to help. I will always remember him bringing his prized dahlias into City Hall for the enjoyment of the staff.
The City of Homer completed many large capital projects during Carey’s tenure. Carey served as both the City Engineer and the Public Works Director during those years. He was deeply involved in all aspects of project development including financing, scoping, engineering and design, inspections, budget audits, and project management. The capital projects completed are too numerous to list here. However, the most prominent ones that many residents will remember and appreciate include the Homer Public Library, water treatment plant, animal shelter, City Hall expansion and renovation, police station, the gas line distribution system, Karen Hornaday and Jack Gist Park improvements, numerous water, sewer, and road LIDs, and many port and harbor improvements and upgrades. Carey was a big supporter of the one percent for the arts program and was committed to reducing the City of Homer’s carbon footprint; a focus that many of us appreciated.
Carey was a genuinely good guy and a real community asset. He left his fingerprints all over Homer and his contributions will be long lasting. I hope the community remembers him fondly. I know I will.
There are at least a dozen reasons why Doyon’s plans for their hotel at the base of the Spit should be turned down and these have been and will be elucidated by others on this Opinion page. What we can’t believe is how this application has even gotten this far. How does Doyon even think they can put this application on the table. There is no way this should even be considered. What do the city fathers and mothers think Homer should become? Can you imagine a local contractor expecting waivers of the many codes that Doyon seems to be expecting? Has anyone even given Doyon a copy of city zoning codes? If so, they are making a mockery of our city by submitting such an outlandish application.
Homer is a special place, geographically, environmentally, culturally and socially. However, the powers that be that are encouraging this project (along with the massive expansion of the Homer Harbor) have little respect for any of these things. If successful, they will be destroying the very things that drew many of us to Homer and that keep most of us here.
Hal Smith MD
I have lived in Independent Living housing at Homer Senior Citizens Center for the past 22 years.
I wish senior residents could live our lives freely without fear of retribution for violating arbitrarily applied rules or ones that are implemented on a single individual. I have seen rules used in this manner many times during the past twelve years, in particular.
I have a cluster of friends who support me. I don’t feel afraid of retaliation, but I worry about others who in our waning years don’t have support or maybe lack attentive family members. Seniors should be able to live comfortably – as is advertised on Homer Senior Citizens’ own website, and as long as we are not infringing on the rights of others, not have to live exposed to “rules on a whim” or live in fear we might be targeted with some form of penalty that at the extreme may result in us being without a home.
Please listen to your senior friends. Many have been ignored as they report stories because they are thought of as old and complaining. Please go to www.supportseniorsafetyforourelderly.com to learn more.
Easy Street to Riches
There’s two fables floating here in Homer:
One is that you can buy a ramshackle house, paint it, rent it out for thousands on airbnb with your feet up, your Lazy Boy cranked back while money floods your bank account. Two. is that people that are doing this are driving a housing crisis in Homer.
First I invite anybody to join me in my Lazy Boy after chores – tearing out carpets, installing hardwood floors, insulating the attic, slapping paint on five different rooms, installing egress windows, adding a disposal and countertops, varnishing the floors, building a deck and stairs. installing rails and ballistars to meet code; swapping out toilets, sinks and plumbing, replacing the Toyo stove, the water heater, three washing machines, four dryers; soldering pipes in below zero weather, shoveling the deck, stairs and driveway in deep snows, painting the exterior, oiling the deck, buying pots, pans, coffee makers, towels, toilet paper and microwaves; booking, billing and keeping track of money flowing in and out like the tides. And the most irksome – evicting deadbeat winter renters that leave soiled carpets, grease, filth and junk cars on the lawn. Quality winter renters are not easy to find (even charging half the average Anchorage rental price). Summer is constant cleaning to keep the house at an obsessive-compulsive tidyness, the key to marketing. Then the city takes 8% of your earnings, the borough a property tax, the federal government more.
Last year after all the expenses I made $476, hardly enough to buy a Lazy Boy (as if I have me time to lay around). The fairy tale that Homer’s housing shortage is caused by short term rentals scapegoats people that have put their labor and life-savings into housing. If you own a house you know that paying water, electric, heating oil, internet and sewer bills adds up – try doubling it ! Issuing regulations to solve a lack of housing assumes that the more hoops a dog has to jump through the more obedient it will be.
Short term rentals can be part of the solution – providing luxurious rooms and houses below market rental rates. That’s how I got to Homer. I came down from Talkeetna looking for a bedroom and a jacuzzi tub for the winter. Thirty years later I’m offering the homeless short reprieves from a merciless winter. We can find ways to help each other, but not by laying down regulations that restrict our collective creative cosmos.
P.S. I wish I never wrote this letter. I learned I lost over $9000 (if I add in depreciation last year) with a short term rental. And I’m not paying a mortgage or a repairman. People proficient in math notice numbers like that and aren’t doing rentals on Easy Street.