To all members of Homer City Council, Mayor Ken Castner, City Manager Rob Dumouchel, Julie Engebretsen Planning and any interested parties:
Entering the City of Homer from Bluff Point has to be one of the most pristine view experiences of geography and nature, ever. Living here we too easily take it all for granted. But without assertive leadership, this scene could well have an equivalency of driving through Soldotna with advertising and commercial services of many sorts defacing this most pristine experience. Believe it or not, “The Sterling Bypass” once was meant to be devoid of commercialism and yet today it is a very highly developed area.
Presently, the City of Homer has contracted with the firm of Stantec to develop a plan for the redevelopment of the HERC complex on its 4.3 acres. This 4.3 acres of land is indeed a very useful and well-placed piece of land. The direction of the City Council to Stantec is to lay plans for a Community/Convention Center and recreation facility. Problem: The HERC complex is already used by the Public Works department (storage and equipment) and the recreation department (Pickle Ball). Once the HERC complex is demolished (which most people think should be done), the very functions that are already there will need to be replaced, most certainly on that property.
Added to that is that in the past 50 years, Homer has grown by just about a multiple of 10. Personal opinion is that at a multiple of 10, in 50 years, Homer would have a population of 60,000. But let’s say that just with a multiple of five in 50 years, Homer would have a population of 30,000 and, very likely, several hundred employees and long in need of a new City Hall. The current HERC property would be an absolutely ideal majestic place for a then long-needed new City Hall.
Wouldn’t it be wise to give at least consideration for such an event in the future?
Most cities in Alaska have a community center which may or may not have a combined convention/conference center. As a one-third owner of a 10-12 acre piece of property for 47 years that lies between Sterling Highway and the ocean at the bottom of the Bluff Point drive into Homer, it has long given me cause to think of what would be the best use of this land in the best interest for our community. This parcel of land would most certainly would be highly conducive to a city park with an architecturally exceptional and appealing facility at its eastern end. That facility would function as a park, including a convention/community center, a significant income producer for Homer. People entering look toward the Kachemak Bay scenery, the ocean, the Spit, the mountains, the glaciers and rarely to the left (north). The HERC building site seems hardly visible as one drives into town. Imagine the impressions people would get from a unique entry experience. Imagine how proud citizens of Homer would be of such a facility. Imagine how all of that would reverberate throughout the community with a sense of pride for us all.
The city council should restructure the Stantec agreement to include any lands in Homer that would be best suited for a community/convention center to meet the requirements of the Economic Development Administration.
The city council should adhere to the 2018 comprehensive plan for planning and the benefit of the community. Otherwise, what is ever the use of a comprehensive plan?
Also, the City of Homer should strongly consider purchasing the Bay Club. The purchase price most certainly would be far less than creating such a facility from the ground up. City ownership could greatly reduce the citizen participation and utilization costs with mental and physical health clear beneficiaries of such a facility. A facility called PEAK in Great Falls, Montana, is a very good model. Should the City of Homer duplicate Bay Club services, it would be a clear violation of antitrust.
While financing via EDA will be challenging, as always all sources of financing need to be pursued: state grants, a service unit area, hospital participation, Seldovia Village Tribe, health insurance companies and foundations. A small ad hoc committee including local citizens with financial expertise should certainly be considered.
Homer is a unique, picturesque, friendly community that is certainly destined to grow. May we all put genuine effort into making it economically, friendly, with citizens who are physically and mentally healthy.