• Board of Adjustments will hear appeal Tuesday trying to halt tower construction
By Hannah Heimbuch
A group of property owners in Homer have lodged an appeal against a December Homer Planning Commission decision that approved construction of a 160-foot lattice communications tower on Easy Street off of Skyline Drive. Their appeal will be heard by the Board of Adjustments on Tuesday, at their 6 p.m. meeting in Council Chambers.
Kevin Dee, Project Director at Ageya Wilderness Education, has joined with several other hilltop property owners to oppose tower construction, on grounds that the approval process was flawed, and community impact not properly taken into consideration.
“We were notified last minute in December — literally in the afternoon of the hearing,” Dee said, adding that the project does not meet aspects of the Homer city comprehensive plan.
“Before you take from citizens, we need a better process,” he said. “I’ve asked for this to be overturned due to technical errors.”
He is also calling for a moratorium to be declared on communication tower construction, similar to the one adopted by Juneau in February.
City Planner Rick Abboud has filed a comprehensive response to the appeal concerns. That document refutes in detail the claims that the permit failed public process, or that the structure poses an undue burden or impact upon surrounding property owners. Abboud cites Homer City Code that allows for the uses and impacts proposed, as well as specific actions undertaken by the city to involve the public.
The tower, a project of Kodiak Microwave System, LLC, aims to connect several Kachemak Bay communities to broadband — including Port Graham, Nanwalek, Halibut Cove and Nikolaevsk.
The intent of the project is a good one, Dee said, but undue haste has caused the planning commission to underestimate the impact the tower will have on surrounding property.
“They compared the level of nuisance to a multi-family dwelling, or a dog kennel,” Dee said. “They didn’t consider the covenants that specifically prohibit tall towers in the subdivision.”
When Ageya put up a wind turbine, he said, they jumped through significant hoops and planning changes before it could happen. He does not feel KMS has been asked to follow the same process.
Anchorage-based attorneys for KMS have also submitted a detailed response to the appeal, addressing each of the appellants individual concerns regarding process and impact.
They point to several existing towers in the vicinity as a precedent to support the new construction, and say that public process was followed diligently throughout the application proceedings.
“There is no need to halt progress on this project, because KMS has met its burden, and produced sufficient evidence to merit being granted the (Conditional Use Permit),” reads the applicant response to appeal. “To force KMS to halt development would only lead to increased expense for all parties involved, and it would deny communities across the bay access to important communication services for an even longer period of time.”
Should the KMS permit stand, Dee said, Ageya is looking at other options. Those include a lawsuit brought by landowners against KMS, or the possible sale of Ageya’s lodge and properties.
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