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Homer City Council approves contract to create new long term plan

Sabine Poux

In February, city council voted to pass a resolution approving a $650,000 contract with Agnew::Beck Consulting to create a comprehensive plan and update the city’s zoning code. Mayor Ken Castner vetoed the resolution and reduced the city’s funding to $250,000 for the project.

However, the city included the additional $400,000 dollars into the current budget in June. They reintroduced the resolution at last week’s meeting, where it passed five to one with a no vote from Council Member Shelly Erickson.

Erickson voted against the contract, saying the city’s planning commission felt like their voice wasn’t heard.

Many council members agreed that there was a disconnect in communication between the council and commissions, but approving the plan is a council led action. The actual development of the plan will include extensive work with the planning commission.

Council Member Rachel Lord said for other large projects like the Homer Harbor expansion, the council passed a resolution laying out communication expectations with the commissions involved. She said that something similar is within the contract with Agnew::Beck.

“It's something that I think we could also look at and make sure that we keep an eye on as a council that those expectations are being met,” she said.

The comprehensive plan is a foundational document that lays out the vision for the city over 20 years. The city created a comprehensive plan in 2008 and updated it in 2018. They’re currently creating this new plan five years sooner than the 20 year timeline lays out.

City Manager Rob Dumouchel said since the plan’s inception, many people have shifted priorities when it comes to issues like transportation. The rise of short term rentals and other major changes has also shaped the city in recent years.

“We've seen a lot of population growth. We've seen different trends, and what people are interested in,” he said, “we're talking real seriously about harbor expansion. And then we had this major pandemic, too, And so we had all these really massive disruptions to the city as a system.”

When choosing a group to work with, Dumouchel said the city went with Agnew::Beck for their ability to create a proposal at the designated price point. Their proposal included many people already familiar with how the city works.

“Of the ones who did the request for proposals round, they were the only one that could provide what we were looking for, in regards to zoning, which is, the follow up to the comp plan development,” Dumouchel said.

The plan’s development is set to take two years — one year to create the plan, and another to update Title 21, the city’s zoning code.

During the creation stage, Dumouchel said the city and Agnew::Beck will be incorporating community engagement in a variety of ways. While they will hold open houses and have focus groups, he said they might also try some unconventional outreach approaches to reach as many people as possible.

“This is a big deal. It's a big plan. It's a big step for the community, and I really don't want to get to the end of it, have people say, ‘Oh, well, I never heard of it,’ or ‘no one ever asked me what I thought’ or anything like that,” he said, “so we're gonna really actively seek out our groups. We're a small enough community. We know who people are. We have a better chance of finding them, than if we were a metropolitan of a million people, so we're going to lean into our smallness and do our best in that.”

There will likely be a kickoff meeting with the public for the plan’s development in the next few weeks.

Jamie Diep is a reporter/host for KBBI from Portland, Oregon. They joined KBBI right after getting a degree in music and Anthropology from the University of Oregon. They’ve built a strong passion for public radio through their work with OPB in Portland and the Here I Stand Project in Taipei, Taiwan.Jamie covers everything related to Homer and the Kenai Peninsula, and they’re particularly interested in education and environmental reporting. You can reach them at to send story ideas.