Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 3:35 PM on Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'Junkyard' owner, city close in on resolution

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


Photographer: Michael Armstrong, Homer News

Fishing gear, trucks, cars and sheds are on Michael Kennedy's property on Ocean Drive Loop. He had loaded up an old Mercedes Benz on his boom truck and was preparing to haul it out last month.

A long simmering zoning dispute between the city of Homer and an Ocean Drive Loop homeowner the city contends runs a junkyard may be nearing a resolution.

A Kenai Superior Court judge last month denied a motion by the city of Homer for a preliminary injunction against Michael Kennedy, a longtime Homer resident with a house on a .32-acre lot in an area near $250,000 bay view homes. Meanwhile, Kennedy continued work tidying up the lot, including moving three wrecked cars.

At a hearing held in Kenai on Nov. 14, Judge Charles Huguelet denied the city's motion to have Kennedy remove all junk from his lot and allow a city representative to inspect unregistered vehicles to see if they are operable by having Kennedy start the engines and move the cars.

Huguelet did direct Kennedy to prepare a list of vehicles on his property and allow the city to review the list and inspect the vehicles to see which ones were there and had proper registration.

Some cars are registered with historic license plates, such as a 1956 Chevrolet sedan. Huguelet set a trial date for late January to continue considering the case.

The judge also encouraged Kennedy and the city to work together to resolve the issue before coming back to court next month. Planning Director Rick Abboud said he's hoping that can be done.

"It's not our object to take him to court," he said, referring to the January trial date.

"I think they'll be happy in the end," Kennedy said. "We're going to work on it between now and then."

The city later filed a motion for reconsideration with Huguelet, but the judge has not yet ruled on that motion.

Kennedy said he has been working on cleaning up his lot, moving about 50 percent of what the city asked for in the 2009 enforcement action that led to the latest court hearing. For example, the Friday after the hearing, Kennedy moved two old Mercedes Benzes and a BMW from his lot.

"I think we'll settle it before court," he said. "I think everybody's going to get along and it will work out. Everybody will be happy in the end."

Kennedy's case dates back to 1990, when city officials first targeted his property for clean up. A longtime Homer resident, Kennedy stores outside his home material that includes vintage cars, Chinese bicycles and other objects. Supporters of Kennedy contend he offers a valuable service, providing spare parts, historic objects and curiosities to mechanics and artists.

Except for fishing gear stacked in a row, most material is either inside cars and sheds or in the back of pickup trucks. City code allows for storing fishing gear outside. The city says the material stored outside is junk, defined as "worn out, wrecked, scrapped, partially or fully discarded or damaged goods or tangible materials" as well as "motor vehicles that are inoperable or not currently registered for operation under the laws of the state."

In October 2009 the city started another round of enforcement against Kennedy. Kennedy lost an appeal to the Homer Advisory Planning Commission in December 2009 and to and the Homer City Council, acting as the Board of Adjustment, in June 2010. In the decision by the board, it found Kennedy stored inoperable cars and material defined as junk under city code. The decision modified the planning commission action, and found that city photographs failed to prove any of Kennedy's vehicles were operable.

Located on the inland side of the Ocean Drive Loop Seawall near upscale homes with Kachemak Bay views, Kennedy's home is between two vacant lots. His nearest neighbor to the east, Larry Keller, a Vietnam War combat veteran, said he doesn't mind what he calls "the museum."

"If they need something, and that's the only one of its kind on the Kenai Peninsula, and they need it now, it's probably at Mike's place," Keller said. "We really enjoy having Mike near. It's a comfort."

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