Story last updated at 2:56 p.m. Friday, April 12, 2002

City Council tunes beach rule revisions
by Carey James
Staff Writer

City Council members dived into the fine print of two contentious issues Monday, reworking of the city's new beach laws and looking for common ground on the city project priorities list.

The council first focused on defining the city's new beach laws during last week's work session, refining them in hopes of making the rules more palatable for the judicial system.

In March, four men cited for driving on the Bishop's Beach storm berm were found not guilty by Judge Francis Neville because she decided the city's beach ordinance was too vague. Since then, Homer Police Chief Mark Robl, as well as other city staff and council members have been working on an enhanced definition of the beach policy, but the process has sparked debate over interpretations of such terms as "storm berm" and the meaning of "tamper."

Councilmen Ray Kranich and Rick Ladd expressed concern at the council's work session that the proposed wording was going too far.

Ladd told the council that during a recent beach walk, he and his granddaughter were eyeballed by a police officer after the little girl picked up a stick.

"This is what my constituents tell me happens," Kranich said. "You guys open the door and you go much further" than what was originally intended.

Kranich said he objected to the defined wording on several points of the beach ordinance, including the statement, "No person shall operate any motorized vehicles upon a storm berm on any beach within the city limits of Homer except in designated areas."

"This language in here is opening the door much further," he said. "To me, that's kind of flip-flopped" from the original ordinance.

Also debated was the portion of the ordinance that says, "No person shall tamper with, burn or remove driftwood from a storm berm."

"I would like to see us try to explore the definition further," Ladd said. "'Tamper' bugs me a little."

While Ladd and Kranich were concerned about the laws being too restrictive, other council members were concerned that the new regulations be effective.

"We have thousands of people coming here, and I would like to see us leave some places unique so people don't have to go to Glacier Spit to find something that has just been left alone," said Homer Mayor Jack Cushing. "It's a stewardship philosophy."

Part of the confusion stems from the city's definition of a storm berm. While some members consider the berm to consist of logs pushed up only during a storm, others protested the removal of any driftwood from the beach area, whether embedded in a berm or not.

"Somehow that driftwood has to sit there to get embedded," said councilman Mike Yourkowski.

The council approved introduction of the ordinance as written, but advised City Manager Ron Drathman to find a more specific definition for storm berm as well as consider the other concerns of the council and work on amendments for the next council meeting.

The council also discussed a list of city priorities requested by Drathman. Drathman gave each council member a list of all the projects the city has a part in, and asked them to rank their favorites independently.

Using a point method, Drathman presented the council with a compiled priority list Monday. At the top of the list was work on city regulations pertaining to large buildings, or "box stores." Ranked second was work toward a new public library, Bridge Creek Watershed planning and work on the city's proposed Animal Shelter, followed by a water and sewer master plan, steep-slope development standards, an update on the lease policy manual and beach policy implementation.

Cushing disagreed with the method of ranking items on the list, saying items that are works in progress should be separated from future projects. Others said some of the items needed to be consolidated.

"A good percent of items on here are reflective of the council's priorities," said Ladd. "Other than some changes and consolidations, I would hate to see us change this a whole lot."

In other news, the council approved a new assistant, at an annual salary of about $43,000, for the city manager to work on projects and write grants as well as unburden the current staff. Drathman said he hopes to hire the assistant by next month.

"This person isn't going to be sitting around up there," said Kranich. "This is something to make our city work more efficiently."

Making good on a promise during the annexation debate, Kranich formally submitted his resignation as a council member effective the day of the next regular city election, though not relinquishing his right to run again for the seat. Ladd and Yourkowski have also stated their intent to follow suit, while terms for Cushing as well as council members Pat Cue and Kurt Marquardt are up for re-election this fall. Only council member John Fenske has elected to retain the full term of his council seat in the upcoming election.