Story last updated at 1:33 p.m. Thursday, April 18, 2002

Save-U-More store faces eviction
by Joel Gay
Staff Writer

Save-U-More has been evicted from its Pioneer Avenue location, and while the store's owner is hopeful he can get a reprieve and remain there while his new store is being built along the Sterling Highway, the popular cut-rate merchandiser may have to move temporarily into smaller quarters this summer.

The store has leased space from Homer businessman Ray Evarts since it opened a dozen years ago, said owner Valentin Caspaar from Seattle. Evarts delivered an eviction notice on Dec. 31, however, giving Save-U-More until April 15 to vacate.

In Anchorage Superior Court on Monday, however, Evarts said Save-U-More could stay until May 13.

Caspaar said Evarts left open the door that Save-U-More might stay longer, but Evarts had no comment and his attorney, Bill Brattain, did not return a call Wednesday.

If forced to move, Save-U-More manager John Saari said the store can move into the old Laidlaw bus barn on the corner of Olson Lane and the Sterling Highway. It would be tight, Saari said, "But Val (Caspaar) didn't want to abandon the town for four months. He wants to keep our customers happy, because we've been here a long time."

Save-U-More plans to build a 21,000-square-foot building on the Bypass across from the Homer Chamber of Commerce, and hopes to be in by Aug. 1, "pending rapid government approval," Caspaar said.

That may not come as quickly as he would like. An architect has just started working on the drawings, he said. Once complete, the plans must be approved by the state Fire Marshal's office. Then the city will review them, which typically takes two to three weeks, said city planning assistant Beverly Guyton.

On the positive side, she said, Caspaar and city planner Zak Tucker have already worked out the details that often slow down a project, such as parking and drainage.

Another potential roadblock is a proposed change in the city zoning code. The Advisory Planning Commission has proposed requiring a conditional use permit for buildings in the central business district whose footprint is more than 8,000 square feet, or which cover more more than 30 percent of the lot.

Such buildings are allowed outright in other commercial zones. As a conditional use, however, the planning commission would hold a public hearing and could require the builder to modify the plan to meet certain conditions.

The Kachemak Board of Realtors has blasted the proposal, saying it could stifle development downtown by submitting large buildings to the personal whims of the planning commission.

Commission chairman Bill Smith disputed that charge, saying the proposed change is not meant to prevent large stores from coming to Homer, but rather to give area residents greater say on developments in their midst and recommend conditions that ensure the building fits the community.

In the past, for example, conditions were placed on Homer Flex School to prevent students from driving through the adjoining neighborhood, he said.

"We're not moving to prohibit development," Smith said. "We want neighbors to have some comment on the plan."

Smith said the commission postponed action on the ordinance to gather additional public input, "in spite of the fact Save-U-More might get its permit."