In the June 6 Homer News Doug Stark railed about Homer's alleged reputation as an antigrowth haven. Unfortunately many believe those who question or challenge the dominant paradigm of growth are simply "anti-progress." Not every community should become bigger. The emphasis should be on quality not quantity. Relentless population increase ultimately erodes the very reasons many choose to live in small towns. Remember, Los Angeles and other huge cities once were small communities. If unlimited growth is the objective, then perhaps a rapidly metastasizing place like Mexico City with over 20 million people is the epitome of "progress." Once a community has good educational, medical, cultural and economic attributes, a better concept to strive for than persistent population growth would be stability, which is not the same as "stagnation." As long as the nation's population continues to escalate, some growth is inevitable, but it should not be encouraged or subsidized by government.
In the past 40 years the population of the Kenai Peninsula Borough has more than quintupled, and between 1990 and 2000 it increased 22 percent. If this trend continues, by 2040, the Kenai Peninsula Borough will have roughly the current population of Anchorage! Over time such growth brings big city problems. Ironically, why are so many Anchorage area residents retiring here?
If indeed within 20 years a multitude of executive jets are parked at our airport. Homer may emulate some resort communities Outside where many local residents can no longer afford to live. We could become another Vail or Aspen, Colo. where land prices are so high that none of the service sector can afford to live in either town. They commute up to 100 miles or more per day to live in a trailer park they can afford in some other town. In Aspen they have a housing subsidy program to help people live in the city limits, and anyone with a yearly income of $130,000 or less qualifies!
Homer already is thriving and focused mainly on education, fishing, tourism, government and retirees. Education and marine research could provide many valuable jobs for career-oriented young people. Small cruise ship visits will provide local entrepreneurs with new opportunities. A stable economy that protects our unique environment and rural quality of life, but does not drive the cost of living up beyond the means of many residents should be the goal for Homer's economy.
Opposition to unfettered growth is important if Homer is to shape a future different than most sprawling urban areas. Careful planning, zoning, and maintenance of open space and large lots are essential to remain in harmony with Homer's incredible natural setting. Open space also greatly enhances surrounding property values. Homer presently is a special, small community with a superior quality of life, but if limitless population increase continues, we ultimately will lose those qualities that brought most of us here in the first place.