City Presses On With Special Assessment District

Ariel Van Cleave

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     The Homer special assessment district has passed a hurdle with a “yes” vote from all city council members on first reading. Final passage could happen at the next meeting Feb. 11.  

     Almost three months ago, the city sent out certified letters to property owners within the proposed HSAD. The deadline to submit objections was Friday Jan. 25 at 5 p.m. According to the city clerk’s office, 14 percent of the total lots included in the district objected to the measure. Fifty percent was needed in order for the council to go back to the drawing board. 

     The clerk’s office has posted those letters on the City of Homer’s website and provided a breakdown of reasons why property owners have said “no”. The two biggest concerns are the cost of the project and issues with future gas supply. Property owners will pay $3,283 per assessed lot beginning in 2015. That’s when construction is expected to be complete. 

     During the final HSAD public hearing on Jan. 28, Richard Gustafson echoed the concern of many other residents who have said the project seems to be moving too quickly.

     “There’s even people out there that have not received this document… and then to shove it through, From November 1 till now to make a decision, seems like it’s on the fast track” he said.

     Homer resident Joyclyn Graham said she isn’t for the assessment or the project. She said translating a non-response to a “yes” vote doesn’t make sense. Also, Graham said she can’t afford to convert over to natural gas and has no plans to.

     “I didn’t ask for this service. I don’t want the product,” she said. “I’ve got a daughter going to college next year. I’d much rather use that money to pay for her tuition.”

     Another issue that came up was how the city assessed condo owners. State law requires condos to be assessed separately rather than as a single lot. Ken Castner owns a condo and said this is has become a divisive issue.

     “I’ve been on Team Homer for 40 years. I’m a great person to have on your side, and I’m a terrible person to have as an adversary. I don’t really want to be an adversary,” he said. “I really don’t want to end up in court. I don’t want to be writing weekly letters to the paper. I don’t want to be talking to my friends about those guys down at City Hall. I don’t want to do any of that stuff, but that’s the position I’m feeling myself in.”

     Both council members Bryan Zak and Beau Burgess said they understand the frustration, but their hands are tied because the assessment rule is at the state level. Burgess said it is not the council’s intention to be unfair.

     “If you have, say, something like the condos at the end of the Spit, where you have these separate buildings… all resting on a single lot. If you break it down by lot, suddenly you have multi-million dollars worth of properties obviously benefiting from a single lot,” he said. “At the other end of the spectrum, you have a situation that Mr. Castner’s alluding to with Kachemak Bay Title building where you have a very compact physical structure with multiple businesses in the same structure. It’s hard to come up with a legal approach that is equitable to both of those situations.” 

     The HSAD could be approved during the next regular city council meeting, which is Feb. 11 at 6 p.m.

 

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