• Bay View Inn grandfather status protection dropped
By Carey Restino
The Homer City Council backed away from any attempts to grant irrevocable grandfather rights to the Bay View Inn on Monday night after receiving advice from its city attorney dissuading the action.
The inn, which was owned by former city councilman Dennis Novak until his death in 2011, became the property of Diane Novak, his sister. The property in the entrance to town is zoned for residential use, which would prohibit its operations as a motel, but the doors were kept open by grandfather rights. But after being closed for more than a year, city regulations dictate that the business lose its grandfather rights. Diane Novak is reportedly trying to sell the property but has yet to be successful in that endeavor, and now that effort may be all the more difficult since it can no longer operate as a motel.
At a meeting earlier this month, the council voted against allowing the property to stay open, an action that was brought for reconsideration this week by the sole vote in opposition, Councilman Bryan Zak. But the verdict remained the same. While the council agreed to ask the city planning department to look into ways to soften the city code for future situations such as this, they agreed with city attorney Thomas Klinker, who recommended against any efforts to provide the facility with irrevocable grandfather rights.
The Homer city code cannot be overridden by resolution, Klinker noted, citing two items in the city code that prohibit the facility’s continued nonconforming operation as a hotel.
Councilman Beau Burgess said while the council doesn’t want to punish small business, it would run into legal risks by playing favorites or micromanaging a situation that was covered so clearly by city code.
Zak agreed, though he suggested the city planning department consider allowing longer periods of discontinuance in certain circumstances such as those befalling the Novak family.
But Councilwoman Barbara Howard disagreed, saying she wants to find a solution that is applicable city-wide, and encouraged those involved with the Bay View Inn case to start working through the proper channels toward resolution.
“Property owners have the right to have their property operate at the highest and best use and what we did was reduce its value by taking it back down to residential,” Howard said, referencing the new residential zoning for the area that was part of the creation of the Homer Gateway Corridor Overlay in 2006.
But the council, which has found itself defending many legal cases where allegations of spot zoning were at issue, voted to stick to the code, despite their obvious desire to help out the sister of the longtime councilman.
Outgoing councilman James Dolma testified that the council is looking at the situation from the wrong angle. The situation wasn’t caused by problems with the grandfather rights clauses, but rather by the owner of the property not following the available courses of action.
“This wasn’t something the city did wrong,” Dolma said. “What we are trying to do here is not the correct way to do it.”
Burgess replied that he saw middle ground in a re-examination of the way properties transition from nonconforming to conforming uses, which, he noted, is the purpose of the city planning and zoning department in the first place.
“We don’t need everyone to march in unison,’ he said.
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