Congratulations to the winners in the Homer City Council election. The weeks and months ahead as they assume their seats will be interesting. We are looking forward to seeing some of the changes discussed in the candidate debates and interviews. Certainly, there are a number of weighty matters coming up that will require a lot of discussion and thought on the council, including the controversial pursuit of a new public safety building.
There will be a grave problems to solve as a small city government, and don’t expect Homer folks to be a mild audience. They get rough now and then on their elected officials. They ask tough questions and like truthful answers.
This week you will read on the front page the story of another city councilman, Dennis Novak, who served from 2003 to 2009. He also served on the Homer Chamber of Commerce and contributed in other ways to the community he came to love. He died tragically in 2011 after falling into his well.
A zoning designation at his historic inn on BayCrest Hill means, for now, it is illegal to sell it or operate it as a motel. The 11 units look out on a tranquil bay and delighted visitors for at least 60 years. Now Novak’s sister is placed between a rock and a hard place because she’s trying to sell a property that has an identity conflict: it can’t be operated as what it is. The new owners would have to build a new house and forget the lodging side of things, perhaps even tear down a perfectly sound structure.
Real estate agent Debra Leisek has a good point in saying the Homer city code operates somewhere outside of good sense in instances like this. To us, it looks like a solution can’t be that difficult to reach – give the property a variance that keeps its grandfather status.
It’s not comforting to other business owners around town to know that if they pass away like Novak their decedents may be stymied in trying to keep the family business operating. They will need to carry on the business for a full year without interruption in order to keep a nonconforming use. That could prove a difficulty, depending on the business. And what of a potential interruption if the inheritance is tied up in probate or other legal matters? Families want to believe they are leaving their loved ones secure, passing on a lucrative business for the next generation to operate.
End of election season
It’s been a good election season, lively with debate among a field of four candidates for two city council seats. We will finally know if the voters like or dislike the plastic bag ban. And we won’t have to keep debating funding new school roofs, term limits or whether there should be a larger property tax exemption. Hopefully, we will move on to other discussions, such as a new community center a citizens’ group of individuals are discussing. Some of the members crossed over from the highly successful Homer Playground Project. The mothers forming HoPP didn’t let grass grow beneath their feet – they accomplished their aim to gain a new Karen Hornaday Park by the beginning of the summer last year.
We need more citizen groups like that to effect change.
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