Council considers rezoning East End

By Hannah Heimbuch
Homer Tribune

Though the ordinance was postponed for further work, the Homer City Council has begun to consider options for establishing more business-friendly zones along East End Road close to town.
Councilman Gus Van Dyke introduced ordinance 14-19 at Monday’s council meeting, proposing to rezone portions of East End from rural residential, urban residential and residential office, to mixed use.
Mixed use includes a wide variety of potential land uses — from small offices and residential lots to industrial business. The council discussed potential impacts of the ordinance at a Committee of the Whole meeting prior to the regular council meeting.
It’s important that the primary traffic corridors leading into and out of town be available for business growth, Van Dyke said.
“So we can utilize the land as best as it can be utilized,” he said. “For the city, as well as the people who own the properties there.”
While several members of the council were open to some expansion of business use along the corridor from Lake Street to the edge of Kachemak City, there was some concern that the “mixed use” distinction was a little too open.
The current mixed use zone starts around Bear Creek, said councilman David Lewis, where we start to see construction businesses and other industrial facilities.
“With East End mixed use, we could get anything in any one of those spots along the way,” Lewis said, “and I just can’t see it coming down into these residential neighborhoods.”
Councilwoman Francie Roberts had similar concerns about opening the largely residential area immediately east of Homer to major business operations.
The council discussed several options for changes to the ordinance that would achieve Van Dyke’s intention of expanding Homer’s business space, without making such major changes to existing neighborhoods.
One of those options, said Mayor Beth Wythe, would be to look for avenues already within Homer’s comprehensive plan, or close to it, that would meet those intentions.
“It was not a short task,” Wythe said of development of that long-term plan, a process Homer goes through every 10 years. “It was long and it was arduous getting it approved, and it’s not a quick process to try to change it.”
The comprehensive plan does allow for future business growth, she said, and now may be a time to look into putting some of those conditions into action.
“It’s easier to implement than it is to do something totally different,” she said.
City Planner Rick Abboud agreed, saying major changes would need to be vetted through a public process.
“If we want to do something really different, I want to go through a planning process that gives everybody around a chance to give input and work out the issues we may have,” Abboud said.
Roberts was supportive of looking at other ways to encourage Homer’s eastward expanding businesses, and thought expansion of the “residential office” zone, which currently applies to much of the area between Lake Street and East Hill, might be a better fit.
Some brief discussion between City Manager Walt Wrede and Abboud suggested that option may be more in line with the existing comprehensive plan, and allows for a commercial element, without allowing as much as the mixed use distinction does.
That direction will likely garner the least public disagreement, said Councilman Beau Burgess, who supported expansion, but in a way that met the outline of the comprehensive plan and therefore attracted less public resistance.
“To allow for more retail establishments and non-bad-neighbor sort of commercial activities, those would be two steps that I think we could take that would be consistent with the plan and would move us in that direction,” Burgess said.
Van Dyke said he is very open to working with the planning office as well as his fellow council members to make amendments to the ordinance in a way that would garner the most support. Whether that means changing the language away from mixed use and/or utilizing the options laid out in the comprehensive plan.
“Granted this is a starting point,” he said. “And I want a dialogue so we can move in the right direction.”
Several members of the community voiced their support of an expanded business district out East End, including Mike Dye and Karin Marks, both of Homer.
The ordinance was postponed so that Van Dyke could work with the planning department on adjustments. He plans to return it to the council table sooner rather than later, he said, to keep the ball rolling.
In other development news around the city, City Manager Walt Wrede’s written report to council stated that paving is nearly complete on trails skirting Homer harbor. Both Wrede and Councilman Burgess mentioned positive feedback they had heard regarding upgrades to trails, parking lots, restrooms and landscaping in public areas on the Homer Spit.
Wrede also announced that there will be a May 23 discussion in Homer with the Department of Transportation regarding paving and other upgrades to Pioneer Avenue and Lake Street. This would be a good time for public input on those projects, he wrote.

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Posted by on May 14th, 2014 and filed under Headline News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Response for “Council considers rezoning East End”

  1. kim says:

    I see many empty businesses downtown already.

    Perhaps the city council should instead focus on being a better place to do business rather than expanding the business zone.

    It is nice to see so much done to make the tourist feel welcome with nice trails and bathrooms with art…

    …..however Kachemak drive is very dangerous, horrible paving with huge bumps where massive boats travel (and are sometimes damaged by the road conditions)…many bikers and walkers on this road with no shoulder. There needs to be a trail there for bikers and pedistrians and it needs to be done now, before someone is killed.

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