Council declines to sell downtown lot, postpones vote on providing water outside of city limits

Jun 11, 2019

Credit City of Homer

The Homer City Council declined to put a parcel of city-owned land in Homer’s central business district back on the market Monday. The 1.3 acre parcel could have been the future home of Grace Ridge Brewing, but opponents of the move say the property could serve the city in the future.

The city had considered building the new Homer Public Library on the site, but after the city went another direction, the land sat on the market until 2018.  

It wasn’t until recently when Grace Ridge Brewery owners Sherry and Don Stead expressed interest in purchasing the land to expand their business.  Sherry told the council Monday that the expansion would enhance the economy with jobs during and after construction.

“Our intention is to build at least a $1 million building and business on Main Street. An anchor business is good for all the surrounding businesses,” she said. “Why that location? It’s in the business district. I want to be part of downtown Homer.”

Stead added that the lot needed significant work. They would need to spend $127,000 removing fill dirt that was dumped years ago before they could begin construction, something the city had identified previously and part of the reason the lot’s value had been decreased significantly.

While many members of the public and some on the council supported putting the lot back on the market, others like council member Heath Smith argued that the city many need it in the future. 

“We have very few land holdings that have the access that that (property) does with utilities and with some developable benefit to the town center,” Smith explained. “I really don’t want to dispose of what little we have because it limits our ability in the future.”

However, others on the council argued the exact opposite: that the city has significant landholdings in the area and that the lot itself has limited potential for use by the city because of its small size.

While the city council was voting solely on placing the property back on the market, and not on the sale of the property to Grace Ridge Brewing, council members Rachel Lord and Donna Aderhold said they wanted to be responsive to the business community.

Others wanted the land on the tax rolls in some way. 

“I’m going to support selling this to whoever the highest bidder is,” Council member Caroline Venuti said. “I’d love to see some activity down on the main area of town, and I think this would be a positive showing of faith that our community is going to grow.”

The council split its vote on the issue, with council members Smith, Tom Stroozas and Shelly Erickson voting against placing the property on the market. Council members Venuti, Lord, Aderhold voted in favor of the move. Keeping with his personal policy, Mayor Ken Castner abstained.

The council also postponed its vote on a contentious ordinance that would implement a regulatory framework for it to provide water service to properties outside the City of Homer. This comes after a contentious debate regarding the extension of city water services to Kachemak City properties along an existing water line on East End Road.

Council members also declined to take action on rewording city policy for clearing vegetation from the right-of-ways as well. The measure aims to give public works more leeway when working with private landowners along city roads.

The council also honored Dr. Bill Bell for more than 30 years as a volunteer physician supporting the Homer Volunteer Fire Department.