A small Alaska-based hotel chain is looking to build its next location in Homer. Aspen Hotels wants to build a 72-room hotel across the Sterling Highway from Safeway.
The Homer Planning Advisory Commission approved a conditional use permit for construction of the 43,000-square-foot facility Wednesday. City code requires approval of any building larger than 8,000 square feet.
Architect Rich Conneen told the commission the hotel would generate 15 jobs. Conneen is also working with the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center to connect the properties via a sidewalk, and there are plans to donate some of the property to expand existing trails.
“On the downward side of the property, Beluga Slough, we’re going to donate about a third of the property to a group that’s going to develop those trails into something more permanent,” Conneen explained.
Most commission members spoke in favor of the project, but each had concerns as well. Members Roberta Highland and Franko Venuti brought up the potential smell of the nearby sewer treatment plant.
The smell issue also came up during public comment. Former Homer City Council member Francie Roberts told the commission that it could also be a concern for the city.
“When I was on the city council, I remember specifically the lot that was east of the lot that you’re talking about, the owner of that lot complained bitterly for a long time about the odor from the sewer plant and was threatening suits against the city if I recall,” Roberts said. “I wouldn’t want to think that a development would cause us to have to pay back to the hotel.”
Parking was also a hot topic. The city requires one parking space for every room. Owner George Swift requested that the hotel be allowed to reduce parking by seven spaces in order to landscape more of the property.
Swift told the commission that he typically has fewer spaces at his six other locations around the state. He added that the hotels are rarely filled to capacity at one time and multiple people typically travel in one vehicle.
Swift still needs permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to divert a culvert down to Beluga Slough and an additional permit from the Alaska Department of Transportation due to the building being off a state highway.
Swift also hasn’t officially purchased the property, and the sale is contingent on obtaining the necessary permits.