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City Considers Allowing Bigger Parking Lots for Large Retailers

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City of Homer, Alaska
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After Safeway ran up against city code when remodeling its parking lot, city looks to loosen regulations.

The fact that Homer’s population is growing is reflected in many places -- the tight housing market is a prime example. But another indicator is the growing need for more parking places at Safeway. Homer City Councilwoman Rachel Lord commented during Monday night’s Homer City Council meeting.

“I know the Safeway thing has been, like, a really big, hot winter topic, which for winter topics in Homer, it's not the worst actually. I'm sure Rick probably hit it harder than most of us,” Lord said

“Not too bad,” Aboud said.

“But for, from where I sit, it was kind of painful but not as painful as it's been. So thanks for taking those hits Rick and looking, looking at what options exist with the department and, and with the Planning Commission of what options exist to try to make good choices for the community,” Lord said.

City Planner Rick Aboud said the current code regulating parking lots has a pretty narrow range, with the maximum number of spots allowed being only 10 percent more than the minimum number of spaces required at a large business. When Safeway undertook its parking lot remodel late last year, Aboud said it ran up against the maximum size limits in the code.

“The original parking lot is what you would get if you, when you apply current standards to large retail for the allowance of parking. We're limited to no more than 10 percent over the minimum, or 110 percent of the minimum parking requirement for those facilities and as you'll see now, we can fill it up, in the winter and when we get all our visitors and activity in the summer, it'll be inadequate for the store,” Aboud said.

The Homer Planning Commission has forwarded to the council an ordinance eliminating the maximum parking lot size requirement for large retail and wholesale stores. It was introduced Monday night. Regarding concerns about large, empty parking lots dotted around town, Aboud said green spaces and planters are detailed in the city code, and so if larger parking lots are required, they won’t look like asphalt deserts.

“We have the design standards, and part of the standards you'll see in both of these lots, is for the, the green areas or the islands and buffers, and these are applied as in code. So one of the things we did want to look at or review is how these turn out, since this is one of the first times that we put something like this in code, we'd like to see how it, kind of, pans out and looks,” Aboud said.

The large store parking lot ordinance was introduced Monday night and will have a public hearing and a second reading at the March 28 city council meeting.