Homer council takes steps to help homeless

Planning and zoning issues dominated discussion Monday night at the Homer City Council’s regular meeting. With temperatures falling earlier this month below zero, one proposed zoning change could mean saving lives by providing temporary shelter for homeless people facing bitter cold in winter.

Introduced by council member Shelly Erickson, Memorandum 17-017 would start discussion on a draft ordinance to change zoning regulations so that churches could provide temporary housing overnight for several days from October to April. The change would be a permitted use, meaning facilities wouldn’t have to apply for a conditional use permit and approval by the Homer Advisory Planning Commission. The memorandum passed unanimously and goes to the planning commission for further review and preparation of a draft ordinance.

The ordinance got support of several homeless advocates speaking to the council.

“We just want people to know we’re out there and support this issue,” said Lt. Christin Fankhauser of the Salvation Army, a member of the Homeless Action Committee. “We want to do what we can to take care of the less fortunate in Homer.”

The council also sent to the planning commission two other proposed issues. It introduced on first reading Ordinance 17-05, amending the city operating budget by adding $970,870 from the Homer Accelerated Roads and Trails Program, or HART, fund for Greatland Street improvements.

The council also introduced on first reading Ordinance 17-04, amending city zoning code to add auto equipment sales, rentals, service, repair and storage to the list of permitted use in the Marine Industrial District on the Homer Spit.

Both actions go to the planning commission for its review, and will come back to the council later with changes and recommendations.

Erickson said she introduced the memo on temporary homeless shelter as a start in addressing the issue of people without reliable shelter.

“I was more concerned there were places of shelter before they could get moved into a long term thing,” she said. “The homeless shelter is the next step. This is getting it to the homeless shelter (step).”

“This is great. It’s overdue,” council member Heath Smith said in support of the change.

Smith said he did want to be sure the change would help homeless people get help from social service agencies in finding permanent housing.

“What I want to get away from is establishing something where it becomes a destination for homeless people where we have these open doors, where they go from one place to another,” he said.

In the Greatland Street extension issue, the council considered Option C, a recommendation from Public Works Director Carey Meyer that the city extend Greatland Street north and to the east, connecting to Pioneer Avenue at Bartlett Street.

Greatland Street now extends from the Sterling Highway to just south of Pioneer Avenue, providing access to two businesses at the corner and Save-U-More, one of Homer’s two grocery stores, at the end.

Save-U-More manager Mark Hemstreet supported Option A, a straight shot north to Pioneer Avenue that comes out by the South Peninsula Hospital annex and North Wind. The council also supported that idea as being the simplest and cheapest.

Erickson said that with curbs, gutters and sidewalks, the extension also would provide safe pedestrian access from the Sterling Highway to Pioneer Avenue as an alternative to Main Street, a state road which has no sidewalks. There already is a rough trail from Greatland to Pioneer.

Council member Donna Aderhold opposed Option A, instead suggesting no recommendation and allowing the planning commission to consider all the options. Option B would take the same route as Option C to Pioneer Avenue, but add an east-west link to Main Street.

“I also want the public to have a chance to weigh in,” she said. “This is kind of a big deal to decide a new road.”

City Manager Katie Koester said Option C would be the simplest since it would involve only one land owner, while Option A would involve more landowners and the creation of a special assessment district.

The council supported the car lot rezoning on the Spit. The primary motivation is to allow the Homer Hockey Association to lease for two weeks its parking lot by the Kevin Bell Arena for vehicle sales, something it did last summer that flew under the zoning radar. The hockey association got $5,000 last summer for that lease.

“We should probably apologize,” said Charles Stewart for the hockey association. “We didn’t know any better.”

However, zoning for one lot is spot zoning, and is illegal in Alaska, a point made by citizen activist Frank Griswold in a letter to the council.

“Spot zoning is simply the legal term of art for a zoning decision which affects a small parcel of land and which is found to be an arbitrary exercise of power,” Griswold wrote, citing a footnote by the Alaska Supreme Court in Griswold v. City of Homer, a case he filed challenging another city attempt at spot zoning. Griswold suggested getting a legal opinion to be sure the proposed change wouldn’t be spot zoning.

Smith also said he had concerns about if the proposed change would be too broad, particularly if it allowed car rentals in competition with established rental businesses.

“We need to be cognizant of people not just swooping in,” he said.

Much of the area affected would be city land near the Deep Water Dock that the city controls, but it also would apply to private land on the Spit not including the Marine Commercial district between Deep Water Dock Road and Fish Dock Road.

The council approved on introduction Ordinance 17-04 and referred it to the planning commission.

More in News

Kenai Fire Marshal Jeremy Hamilton is seen by one of Kenai Fire Department’s Tower trucks on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 at Kenai Fire Department in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Get up, get out and get safe’

Kids taught about fire safety as part of prevention effort

Bob Bird, left, chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, and former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman make the case in favor of a state constitutional convention during a debate in Anchorage broadcast Thursday by Alaska Public Media. (Screenshot from Alaska Public Media’s YouTube channel)
Constitutional convention debate gets heated

Abortion, PFD factor into forum.

Carol Freas (right) helps a voter fill out absentee election materials in Kenai City Hall ahead of the Oct. 4 municipal election on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Absentee voting already underway

Absentee in-person voting has been made available across the borough

Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara
Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara
What’s on the ballot: Reapportionment, new field house, school bond

Voters will decide on ballot measures that address schools, public safety and legislative bodies

Cars line up ahead of dismissal at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, September 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Parking lot problems

Lack of space for pickup and drop-offs creates traffic jam at elementary school

Soldotna Elementary School Principal Dr. Austin Stevenson points out elements of the school building on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Aging school on the brink

Renovations are cost prohibitive at Soldotna Elementary

Rep. Mary Peltola, an Alaska Democrat, delivers a speech on the U.S. House floor before Thursday’s vote approving her first bill, establishing an Office of Food Security in the Department of Veterans Affairs. It passed the House by a 376-49 vote, although its fate in the Senate is undetermined. (Screenshot from official U.S. House video)
Poll: Peltola’s a popular pol

Food for vets bill passes House, pollster says she is “the most popular figure in Alaska right now.”

A parking sign awaits the new executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund at its Juneau headquarters, Three finalists will be interviewed for the job during a public meeting Monday by the fund’s board of trustees, who are expected to deliberate and announce the new director immediately afterward. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Interviews, selection of new Permanent Fund CEO set for Monday

Three finalists seeking to manage $73.7B fund to appear before trustees at public meeting in Juneau

Principal Sarge Truesdell looks at cracked siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Split siding at SoHi

The damage has been given patchwork treatment over the years

Most Read