Homer city officials are in the early stages of creating a land-use plan for the area where the Pier One Theatre sits. The building is currently located in an area zoned for marine commercial and industrial use.
There’s a finite amount of land on the Homer Spit and city officials are aware of that. So the City Council and various commissions have been trying to figure out how to get the most and best use out of each lot… and that’s where the Theatre comes in. It’s smack-dab in the middle of a very attractive lot.
“Right now this may look like a big, open lot, but I can tell you that lot is going to get more and more valuable as time goes on. And the demand for recreation areas, parks, that demand’s only going to grow; and the same for marine industrial. If we don’t use this for marine industrial, we’re going to run out of space and then we’re going to be talking about filling tide lands… to create new land. So it’s incumbent on us to… really think these things out and be smart about it,” City Manager Walt Wrede said.
Officials are considering changes to the RV campground in that spot and adding a Kachemak Bay Water Trail launch site for the short term. For the long term, there have been discussions about utilizing more commercially viable options like barge mooring. That’s actually included in the city’s capital improvement projects list.
Also, Wrede and Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins both mentioned during a council work session Monday night the potential for a barge haul out facility, which wouldn’t be a reality for a few more years. Wrede says the city has been in discussions with the theatre board to figure out its future plans. The theatre leases the building from the city for one dollar each year and there’s three years left on the current agreement.
Council Member James Dolma mentioned he wants to get a letter to the theatre board explaining that if a commercial opportunity comes up in that area, the city will take it.
“They need to hear it because at some point they’re going to wake up, ‘oh my god, nobody’s ever mentioned this.’ So I think it should be in writing that the first priority is going to be commercial leases. We like Pier One, but maybe this isn’t the best spot for them,” he said.
Council Member David Lewis disagreed. He said that could cause alarm since there’s no formal plan put together or agreed on.
“I think by splitting it the way it is basically done we can accommodate everyone. And I don’t want 50,000 supporters of Pier One coming down here at the next meeting and picketing us just because it may happen in five year,” he said.
Council Member Beau Burgess said he would like to find a way to ultimately share the space for commercial and recreational uses.
“You want a buffer between the fishing hole. You want to encourage recreational activity there. It makes sense to invite in the industrial activity elsewhere. I think in the long term though… if the port and harbor owns that piece of property we should have permitting the zone use in keeping with that. So the other option would be to subdivide the lot, have port and harbor sell part of it back to the city that’s going to eventually be recreational and leave it recreational,” he said.
The original intent for that lot was to expand the harbor and Wrede said that’s likely why the area was zoned marine industrial. He said there will be time for public questions and comments about the theatre’s future before the city moves forward with any long-term plans.
“That building is an institution, and it’s not just cultural. There’s an economic impact there. That theatre brings a lot of people to town. I think we’re always going to want to have the theatre. It’s just a question of is that going to be right location in the long term,” he said.
City Planner Rick Abboud will be meeting with the Planning, Parks and Recreation, and Port and Harbor Commissions this month for comments on the land-use concept. The city council could discuss the issue again next month.