Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 9:54 PM on Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Residents say no to zoning

Council amends ordinance, but what does it mean?

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

What if you made so many amendments to an ordinance that you weren't sure what it said? That was the position in which the Homer City Council found itself on Monday.

Originally introduced Feb. 15, Ordinance 11-03 was the target of criticism during a public hearing at a subsequent council meeting Feb. 28. Property owners accused the city of violating rights grandfathered during the 2002 annexation and questioned the limitations of property use the ordinance sought to impose. The ordinance was amended by the council at that time by removing a section terminating use of nonconforming storage after one year.

At the close of the Feb. 28 meeting, council member David Lewis asked for reconsideration so the public would have time "to have their say." The public took advantage of that opportunity Monday.

"The restriction on one recreational vehicle, I don't understand that at all. If I have three, four four-wheelers, is that too many? Or snowmachines. Is that the same thing? And the length of a boat, 36 feet, where did that come from? What difference does that make?" said Richard "Bumppo" Bremicker.

Dean Ravin focused his criticism to the subject of property rights.

"Whose land are we zoning? How many zones do we need? How many people do we need in the world that can tell us what we can and can't have in our backyards?" said Ravin. Turning to the audience, he added, "Is it your property or the city's property? ... I think zoning has gone too far. It's encroaching on your private property. I think that's why there's so many here today. They're tired of bureaucrats telling them what they can and can't do in their own backyard."

Steve Gibson took exception to a "one-size-fits-all approach" and questioned limited property use on adjacent lots owned by the same a person. Leonard Wells raised concern about the section stating a motor vehicle would be considered stored if it wasn't moved within 240 consecutive days.

"If you've been here a long time, you have fishing gear, boats, all these things. This pretty much harasses long-time Alaskans," said Nancy Hillstrand. "To make people conform, to standardize everything just makes for hard feelings. ... Please just cancel this. I don't think we need to go this far."

Steve Zimmerman encouraged the city to enforce laws already on the books without adding more.

"I don't think anything in it should pass," Michael Kennedy said of the entire ordinance. "I think its wrong for all rural, residential and urban. Nothing in here has to do with safety or health. I think it's just an effort to take the Alaskan out of Homer."

Otto Kilcher took time from working on a boat to tell the council that when he had to find a particular piece of pipe for the job, the only place it could be found in Homer and the Kenai Peninsula was in Mike Kennedy's yard.

"Look at the concept of the working man," Kilcher told the council.

The council responded by making numerous amendments to Ordinance 11-03. The entire section dealing with rural residential zones was removed. Definitions of motor vehicles and vehicles were amended to specify those requiring licensing by the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles. The 36-foot boat length limitation for stored noncommercial equipment was increased to 40 feet. The 1,500-square-foot storage area limitation was replaced with a 20 percent total acreage to accommodate instances of contiguous property owned by the same individual. In the sections addressing urban residential and residential office zones, references limiting the storage of commercial fishing gear, motor vehicles and noncommercial equipment were struck.

An amendment from council member Bryan Zak to rephrase the 1,500-square-foot area to be 20 percent or 1,500-square-feet, whichever is greater resulted in a tie vote by the council, forcing it to Mayor James Hornaday.

"Gee, you haven't done this to me in a long time," said Hornaday of holding the tie-breaking vote. "Well, I think it is redundant, but I'll vote yes anyway."

The ordinance title was changed to reflect the amendments and, finally, a grammatical error was corrected.

When all was said and done and time came for a vote, the meaning of the ordinance was unclear.

"Right now, since this has been changed and scratched up, I don't actually know what I'm going to vote on," said council member David Lewis, who also encouraged the public's involvement. "It is beholding to people to pay attention. Not that we're trying to slip something under the door, but people do need to pay attention to what's going on."

Council member Kevin Hogan said the ordinance had sparked more comments than any other topic since he had been on the council.

"None of the people that contacted me were here tonight, so there's a lot of people that this got their attention," said Hogan.

Finally, council member Barbara Howard made a motion that the ordinance be continued until the council's next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, March 29, "and that a clean copy with all the amendments be presented to us so we do know what we're looking at."

The motion passed.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

In other action at its March14 meeting, the Homer City Council:

•Heard an update on the legislative session from lobbyists Linda Anderson and Yuri Morgan;

• Passed Ordinance 11-09, regarding the use and disposal of dredged materials from the city's port and harbor facilities;

• Passed Ordinance 11-10, appropriating $11,000 for the purchase and installation of new data collection and management software;

• Passed Resolution 11-023 Substitute, finding a need to create the Kachemak Drive Phase Two Water and Sewer Local Improvement District and scheduling a public hearing on the necessity of the improvement and proposed improvement plan at the council's April 25 meeting;

• Passed Resolution 11-024, awarding a contract to ATS Alaska of Anchorage in the amount of $53,144 to replace and install a card reader access system;

• Passed Resolution 11-025, awarding a contract to Craig Taylor Equipment of Soldotna in the amount of $64,902 for a telescopic tool carrier;

• Passed Resolution 11-026, re-adopting the investment policies of the city's permanent fund;

• Passed Resolution 11-027 Substitute, approving and adopting the recommendations of the Homer Natural Gas Distribution Task Force (Council member Beth Wythe's request to be recused was granted after she declared a conflict of interest. Wythe is an employee of Homer Electric Association.);

• Passed Resolution 11-028, support the use of city hall depreciation reserves to assist with costs of renovating city hall;

• Passed Resolution 11-028, awarding a contract to East Road Services in the amount of $58,000 for the water treatment plant building demolition; and

• Passed Resolution 11-030, supporting the Kenai Peninsula Borough's continued funding of Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage (Council members David Lewis and Bryan Zak's request to be recused were granted after they declared a conflict of interest. Lewis and Zak are employed by the university.)