Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 9:42 PM on Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Alaska Supreme Court denies Griswold appeal

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

The Alaska Supreme Court last Friday released a decision upholding a Kenai Superior Court ruling that the city of Homer had properly rejected a zoning appeal by citizen activist Frank Griswold. Griswold challenged a February 2008 Homer Advisory Planning Commission grant of a conditional-use permit for the Kachemak Shellfish Mariculture Association to construct a two-story building on the Homer Spit.

Homer City Clerk Jo Johnson rejected Griswold's appeal, citing city code that he lacked standing because he did not own real property near the KSMA building across from the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon. Griswold's interest was no different from that of the general public and he was not "a person aggrieved" as defined by city code, Justice Craig Stowers wrote in his decision for the Alaska Supreme Court.

"This decision will thwart public interest litigation and foster illegal zoning, which is just what the Homer City Council intended when it enacted restrictive standing requirements for zoning appeals," Griswold wrote in an email responding to the decision.

After the city rejected Griswold's appeal, in June 2008 he filed a notice of appeal in Kenai Superior Court. In May 2009, the Superior Court upheld the city clerk's denial, saying that "standing to appeal land use decisions has been lawfully restricted by the Homer City Council." The court later denied a motion for reconsideration by Griswold and in a December 2009 final judgment also awarded the city and the KSMA attorney's fees and costs.

The city also argued that Griswold's appeal to the Supreme Court was untimely. The Supreme Court agreed that Griswold's appeal was untimely, but because of confusion regarding which procedural rules apply for when an appeal had to be filed — within 30 days of its May 2009 decision or December 2009 final judgment — did not dismiss outright Griswold's appeal to the Supreme Court. The application of appellate rules "might have confused even a law-trained individual," Stowers wrote. Griswold had made a good-faith effort to comply with court deadline and his untimeliness was excused.

The Homer city attorney has not yet calculated fees to be paid by Griswold and will submit a bill to the Superior Court for its ruling on what Griswold should owe.

City Manager Walt Wrede returned from vacation on Monday and said he had not yet had time to read the decision and had no comment.

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