• Pier One corner removed from lot RFP
By Carey Restino
Residents of Homer’s Old Town area turned out once again, at the May 24 city council meeting, to offer their support for an ordinance appropriating nearly $100,000 to improve Old Town’s traffic and pedestrian issues.
The ordinance, which was introduced at the meeting, appropriates money from the Homer Accelerated Roads and Trails Program Fund for road improvements, trail construction and pedestrian safety and walkability in the area.
Several residents spoke again about the dangerous combination of fast-moving traffic to and from Bishop’s Beach and the large number of pedestrians on Bunnell Avenue.
Pedestrians have no safe place to walk, many noted, and often are forced to walk along the ditches to avoid traffic. Several grants have been obtained to improve walkability in the area as well as incorporate public art and gardens into the area.
The Old Town community group has proposed putting in removable speed bumps along Bunnell Avenue, something Lisa Zatz, who has a business on Bunnell Avenue, said should be a top priority. Zatz said she is almost a “frequent flier” for calling the Homer police with reports of speeding cars. Reducing the speed limit is also essential, she said.
Marianne Marquart, who lives on the corner of Bunnell Avenue and Main Street, said she sees everything that goes on in Old Town from her windows, and said the traffic situation is dangerous.
“There is a lot of traffic and a lot of pedestrian traffic as well, and no place for pedestrians to walk,” she said.
A public hearing on the ordinance will be held July 22. The council could take action on the allocation at that time.
Pier One lot removed from RFP
A conversation started several weeks ago regarding the future of a parcel of land next to the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon continued Monday night as council considered a resolution calling for lease proposals for a lot of land on which the Pier One Theatre sits.
Pier One Theatre has been leasing a former warehouse on the property from the city for decades, and currently is several years into a 5-year lease with the city for the use of the building.
But conversations have recently been held at the council regarding the future of the parcel, which is zoned for marine industrial use and was originally purchased with funds from the Port and Harbor Enterprise Fund to support the port’s activity.
But in recent years, interest has increased in expanding the recreational and nonprofit uses on the land, with the Wooden Boat Society as well as other entities asking for a piece of the land. A campground area can also be found on the lot. A large portion of the 11-acre lot, however, has been used as a barge haul-out, and has been said to be a valuable chunk of property for such purposes.
The resolution considered Monday originally called for lease proposals for the entire parcel, and Pier One Theatre cofounder Barb Petersen expressed concern that because of the current zoning for the parcel, the longtime theater would not be allowed to submit proposals.
“It was a shock to see that we probably won’t be able to make a proposal to stay there,” said Petersen. “I hope we don’t lose it.”
Councilwoman Francie Roberts, however, proposed removing the corner of land on which Pier One Theatre sits from the request for proposals, and the amendment was approved, despite testimony from mayor Beth Wythe that the purpose of the request for proposals was not to force Pier One Theatre off the land, but rather to analyze all proposals that might be brought forward for the use of the land.
“The intent of the inquiry was not to put Pier One out of business,” Wythe said. “We keep hearing, ‘Oh there’s this thing or there’s that thing interested in this property,’ but the council has never seen a proposal from anyone at all to do anything with that property. It’s hard to determine what the highest and best use for a piece of property is if you don’t even know who really wants to us it.”
Wythe also noted that the property was purchased with the intent to support the harbor activities and when the council allocates that property for uses that are not supporting that effort, the harbor is shortchanged.
“I appreciate all considerations for the environment and green space but when something is purchased with funds for a specific use it is very disingenuous to come back 25 years later and say, ‘Oh, we’re glad you bought this so we could use it,’” Wythe said. “We have a very small pot and of that small pot even a smaller portion can be allocated to such things as park recreation and trails. So we have to balance that. It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t feel good because you want to do the fun things, but you have to do the business first, and that’s what this council is trying to do is do the business and then we can do the fun things later.”
The council also:
• Debated the introduction of an ordinance appropriating $576,815 earned from the port tariff fees and $181,087 in oil and gas property tax revenue from the drill rig Endeavor to the Homer Permanent Fund. Councilman Brian Zak argued that the funds didn’t necessarily constitute a windfall and might be needed for other purposes during the budget cycle but Wythe argued that the rig tax and tariff revenue was unexpected and unusual and therefore fit the definition of a windfall, which under city code would mean the council should appropriate them to the fund.
• Voted against a call for a special election for the repeal of an ordinance prohibiting the use of disposable plastic shopping bags in Homer. The repeal will appear on the October election ballot.
• Proclaimed July as Parks and Recreation Month in Homer.
The next meeting of the city council will be July 22, 2013 at 6 p.m. in the Cowles City Council Chambers.
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