Council hashes out guidelines for providing water outside of city limits

May 29, 2019

Credit Image Courtesy of the City of Homer

The Homer City Council allowed a Kachemak City low-income housing project to access Homer’s water system via a waterline on East End Road in March. The move spurred a conversation about how similar requests should be handled.

Homer’s council members will need to make a decision soon because the Kachemak City Council is now asking Homer to provide water services to other properties along East End Road.

During its work session Tuesday, the council discussed a proposed ordinance that would set clear guidelines for approving requests for water services outside of the city from the borough or neighboring Kachemak City.

The measure stems from the council’s decision earlier this year to provide water service to a Kachemak City housing project in exchange for $100,000. In a letter to the city last week, the Kachemak City Council asked Homer council members to provide service to other properties in the area, but council members like Rachel Lord are reticent to provide more city water services outside of Homer’s boundaries.

“So do we allow substantive benefit of piped water? And to me that's not a policy that would benefit our community economically, our citizens within our city boundaries economically – I mean at this point or at any point,” Lord argued. “What is then the annexation piece of it? And I know nobody wants to talk about it.”

Lord thinks that the council should consider annexation before it provides water services to non-residents.

But others like Heath Smith argued that the city is already selling water in bulk to businesses that deliver to homes outside of city limits.

“Homes are being built based on that, businesses are opening because of that and here we are, we're giving them the water,” he said. “I'm only interested in these properties that are adjacent to our boundary that will provide an opportunity for us to build out the system and benefit the people on the other side.”

Smith also reminded his fellow council members that Homer’s water and sewer systems are maintained by enterprise funds.

“It's not supported or sustained by taxes. It’s self-sustaining and so there's no benefit or lack thereof, a resident versus a non-resident,” he explained.

Still, there’s concern about the lack of zoning codes in Kachemak City. Former Homer Mayor Jack Cushing asked council members to proceed with caution. He fears that providing water in areas where the city may not have control over its use would incentivize development to move out of city limits, where taxes are lower.  

“This could be open the door for urban sprawl and this area and could be having fish processing houses move out there, move off the spit move, off the city properties on the spit that are bringing big income to the city,” he said.

The council later voted to introduce the ordinance during its regular meeting. Council member Donna Aderhold, the measure’s sponsor, told the council she would return with a substitute ordinance that would address some of the concerns.

The Port and Harbor, Planning and Economic Development advisory commissions will also provide recommendations to the council, which will hold a public hearing on the proposal on June 10.