• Council hears from dozens of residents against creating new property restrictions
By Naomi Klouda
Homer property owners shouldn’t have it spelled out for them how many crab nets or recreational vehicles or cars can be stored on their property.
That was the consistent message to the Homer City Council Monday night as resident after resident protested a new ordinance that would restrict the “trash or treasures” people like to keep around for future use. Key among the arguments was that the council would be breaking a promise to those annexed into the City of Homer in 2004, canceling out grandfather rights in passing ordinance 11-03A.
Given the reality of scarce resources, where salvaged scrap metals are being shipped to China, “people who have junk in their yards are going to be our heros,” said Nancy Hillstrand.
“This ordinance is trying to standardize Alaskans and it’s just going to cost us more money. If you’ve been here a long time, you have fishing boats and certain things. This harasses Alaskans,” Hillstrand said.
The notion of recycling as a value, in a day when landfills are overfilled and facing closure, means the equipment people keep in their yards have worth, said resident Dean Ravin. He suggested cross-referencing this ordinance with the Homer Climate Action Plan.
“Along with being a recycler, we’re trying to not be a throw-away society,” Ravin said.
Lifelong Homer residents Otto Kilcher and Patrick Lane testified that Homer may be trying to be pristine to attract a wealthy retirement age population. But that drives out locals and makes it difficult for young people to afford to live here.
“Those of you who came here probably came to get away from America as it was,” said Kilcher, who has a machine shop where equipment is stored outside. “Mechanics, fishermen, slimy and smelly as they are, they are the ones who actually produce something. They are the people who actually do stuff besides push paper.”
Kilcher referred to Michael Kennedy, who also presented at the council meeting and is a property owner, who has considerable storage on his property. When Kilcher needed a certain size pipe, the only place he could find one on the Kenai Peninsula was among Kennedy’s salvage yard of belongings.
The city does lop-sided enforcement, said Brad Faulkner, concerned that only those who have the “squeaky wheel” and make complaints would be enforced or a “real estate type” who moves into the neighborhood and wants it cleaned up. “Anyone who has been to Carmel, Calif., knows. This would be the ‘carmelization’ of Homer,” he said.
No one testified in favor of the ordinance. It was proposed by the Homer Planning Office as a measure to help clean up yards that are eye sores.
In the end, the ordinance was again tabled until the March 29 meeting. Council members amended the ordinance to allow a boat up to 40 feet on the property, then agreed to remove all the language spelling out specifically what could or couldn’t be kept on the property. They also removed the property limits (20 percent) allotted to storage and other changes. Numerous amendments were made and passed.
Councilman David Lewis complained at the end of the amendment-making, the council was in danger of losing track of just what it was voting on. Councilmember Barbara Howard suggested waiting until the March 29 meeting when a cleaned-up copy of the amended ordinance could be reviewed before voting. In the end, the public apparently gave enough convincing reasons to remove most of the restrictions.
“I don’t believe I as the neighboring property owner have a right tell you how to use your property,” said Councilmember Beth Wythe. “I appreciate and understand that what you do on your property affects my property value. But when the city steps in, it is taking away the person’s property rights.”
Councilman Kevin Hogan said he “wants to vote against it to send message to planning commission to quit messing around.” Councilmember Francie Roberts defended the planning commission’s work. “It was trying mend a problem that was brought to them,” Roberts said.
In other business:
• Homer City Lobbyists Linda Anderson and Yuri Morgan reported that in the remaining 34 days of the legislative session, bills and projects are moving along quickly. The House has passed the operating budget, which is now in the Senate. The Capital Budget, reviewed first in the Senate, should be ready for review around April 1.
One boon to cities currently under consideration would increase revenue sharing by tying it to oil revenues. Now in the Senate Finance Committee, the idea is any revenue over $89 per barrel could be shared to increase the state’s contribution to education and revenue sharing.
Homer’s top priorities, including the gasline from Anchor Point to Homer, was listed as Sen. Gary Stevens’ top priority. “By April 1, we will see if we’re going to be successful,” in getting those projects on the capital budget, Anderson said.
Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangle, proposed HB 184, a bill to redistribute the raw fish taxes. This was listed as a top Homer priority as well.
• Contact was made with people from Teshio, Japan, Homer’s sister city, to check on the impact of the Friday earthquake and tidal wave. As of Friday they were untouched, said City Clerk Jo Johnson who made the calls.
• The Homer Port and Harbor will be testing energy efficient 750 watt lights for the harbor, replacing the current 1000 watt high pressure lights. The new ones are said to produce 45 percent less lumens, which is said to be a better white light. Before the city invests in the new technology, the harbor will be testing.
• The council passed a resolution awarding a contract for a new card reader system to ATS Alaska of Anchorage for $53,144.
• A resolution awarding a contract for a telescopic tool carrier to Craig Taylor Equipment Co., of Soldotna for $64,902 was passed.
• A resolution awarding the contract for demolition at the Water Treatment Plant to East End Road Services was passed.
• A resolution regarding distribution of natural gas within Homer in the event a transmission line is built was passed.
• A resolution to use depreciation funds for City Hall to fix up the existing building for energy efficiency passed.
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