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Plan provides solid framework to guide future of Homer Spit

Posted: June 6, 2011 - 8:53am

On a quiet Tuesday before the Memo-rial Day weekend last week, the Homer City Council passed two actions that could result in vast improvements to the Homer Spit. First, after numerous public meetings and workshops, the council approved the Homer Spit Comprehensive Plan. Second, it approved a Transfer of Responsibility Agreement, or TORA, with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities that allows Homer to enforce parking and other regulations along the Homer Spit Road. The council is to be commended for its forward thinking and efforts to control development on what some call just another Coney Island.

We admit to some fondness for the Spit. Unlike some back East coastal tourist traps, the Spit isn’t rows of tacky gift shops. As our Boat of the Week feature shows, working boats moor next to pleasure craft. A big 100-pound halibut is just as likely to be brought to the docks by a commercial fishing boat as a sport charter. Locally owned skiffs line the transient docks next to fancy cabin cruisers. There’s a pleasant mix of cafes run by creative cooks and gift shops offering original, handcrafted art.

But as anyone who tried to drive on the Spit last weekend knows, it has its problems. Tourists (and we suspect locals as well) don’t use the crosswalks and dart out into traffic, which, fortunately, is usually moving at a snail’s pace. Parking between Freight Dock and Fish Dock Roads can be challenging. Some buildings can use some new paint.

The Spit Comp Plan and the TORA give the city better tools to help ease some of those problems, as well as manage development on the Spit.
The comp plan describes preferred development and recommends public improvements. Not everything will happen right away. As with any public project, the city has to come up with funding. Sources like the cruise ship tax are expected to bring in some revenue. The comp plan suggests more organized parking, something the city already has started to implement this summer. Under the TORA, the city doesn’t have to go to the state to get permission to help ease the Spit’s parking and traffic problems. Need to slow down traffic with holiday speed zones? Done. Need to move pedestrian crosswalks? Get out the paintbrushes.

City staff, the Homer Advisory Planning Commission, contractor USKH Inc. and concerned citizens helped make the Spit comp plan better, and they’re all to be congratulated for their hard work. The comp plan isn’t a done deal yet. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission has to sign off on it, but we hope they’ll accept the plan as approved and recommended by the council.

We don’t believe as some do, that managed development will take away Homer’s character and charm. In fact, just the opposite: The plan is a way to help preserve what we all love about Homer and still make way for some new things. With good planning and some creative energy, the Spit — and Homer itself — can only get better.

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