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Quiet Creek preliminary plat goes before council

Posted: February 19, 2014 - 5:27pm  |  Updated: February 24, 2014 - 6:40pm

The Homer City Council at its Monday night meeting will consider a resolution to disapprove the Homer Advisory Planning Commission’s recommendation supporting a preliminary plat for the Quiet Creek subdivision. 

Council members David Lewis and Francie Roberts are sponsoring the resolution.

The planning commission at its Jan. 2 meeting recommended approving a new version of Homer developer Tony Neal’s plat of a 37-acre subdivision uphill and east of Homer High School. Neal got approval in 2005 of a subdivision plat, and last year proposed a new version that would reduce the number of lots from 90 to 71. Lots would be a minimum of 10,000 square feet to 29,645 square feet in size.

The city only advises on subdivision plats — hence the “preliminary” in the description — with final approval by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Platting Committee.

That committee had been scheduled to consider the Quiet Creek preliminary plat at its Feb. 10 meeting. Neal had asked for consideration to be postponed.

“We just asked to put it off for us for two weeks until the next meeting so we could meet with the (borough) planner to clear up any discrepancies,” Neal said.

The Quiet Creek subdivision has been strongly opposed by some neighbors in the area. Opponents have questioned the effect of the subdivision on wetlands, runoff and storm water drainage patterns. At the Jan. 15, on a motion from commissioner Larry Slone to reconsider, the planning commission voted down that motion and its decision stood.

Two opponents of Quiet Creek who live in the area, Ginny Espenshade and Paul Gavenus, had asked the city about the process in challenging the preliminary plat recommendation at the city level. In a Jan. 29 letter to City Planner Rick Abboud, they said they were advised that they could not appeal to the city council acting as a Board of Adjustment. 

They cited a section of city code that says every decision or finding of the planning commission be directed to the council. The code also says that some decisions, such as denials of conditional use permits, can be appealed to the city council, acting as the board of adjustment.

“We are not faulting the staff, but the confusion created by provisions of the code that seem contradictory,” Espenshade and Gavenus wrote.

In a memorandum to the city council in its Feb. 10 meeting supplemental packet, City Attorney Thomas Klinkner noted this section of the code and that the Jan. 2 and Jan. 15 planning commission minutes were included in the supplemental packet. The council has 20 days to disapprove of the recommendation, Klinkner said.

Neal said the 20-day clock should have started ticking at the Jan. 2 meeting when the planning commission approved recommending the preliminary plat.

“I would think the city had until Jan. 22,” Neal said. “We might say, ‘It ticked and you lost time.’”

In their letter, Espenshade and Gavenus said the city violated city code by failing to forward to the council the planning commission decision. They asked that the city reset the 20-day timeframe.

Roberts had testified at the Jan. 15 planning commission about the reconsideration. She lives on Mountain View Drive near the proposed subdivision, within the 500-foot radius of property owners required to be notified of a proposed plat. 

At the meeting, Roberts noted that some information that should have been in the Jan. 2 packet had not been included: letters and supporting information from Devony Lehner and Katherine George. That information was in the Jan. 15 laydown packet. Slone cited that mistake in not originally including the comments as one reason why he asked for reconsideration.

Because of Roberts’ involvement in commenting, Neal said he questioned if she might have a conflict of interest. 

“In my view, it’s perfectly permissible for a city council member to testify pro or con on a planning matter, but if a decision comes up to the council, they’re out by a conflict of interest,” Neal said.

City Clerk Jo Johnson said the city attorney is researching that point, and if he determines Roberts has a conflict of interest, her name will be pulled as a sponsor of the resolution.

No matter what the city does, it will only be a recommendation. The borough platting committee will consider recommendations and resolutions from the city as well as other information and public comments. According to the borough, the Quiet Creek preliminary plat is set for the March 10 platting committee meeting.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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