Point of view: Some alternatives for a community center

To all members of Homer City Council, Mayor Ken Castner, City Manager Rob Dumouchel, Julie Engebretsen Planning and all interested parties:

Entering the City of Homer from Bluff Point has to be one of the most pristine viewing experiences in geography and nature. Living here, we all too easily take everything for granted. But without assertive leadership, this scene may well have the equivalent of traversing Soldotna with advertising and commercial services of all kinds disfiguring this most pristine experience. Believe it or not, “The Sterling Bypass” was once supposed to be devoid of commercialism and yet today it is a highly developed area.

Currently, the City of Homer has contracted with the firm Stantec to develop a plan for the redevelopment of the HERC complex on its 4.3 acres. This 4.3 acre piece of land is indeed very useful and well placed land. City council direction in Stantec is to establish plans for a community/convention center and recreation facility. Problem: The HERC complex is already used by the public works department (storage and equipment) and the recreation department (Pickle Ball). Once the HERC complex is demolished (which most people think should be done), the very functions that are already there will need to be replaced, most certainly on this property.

Also, over the past 50 years, Homer has grown by about a multiple of 10. Personal opinion is that at a multiple of 10, in 50 years Homer would have a population of 60,000. But let’s say that with only a multiple of five in 50 years, Homer would have a population of 30,000 and, most likely, several hundred employees and would be long overdue for a new city hall. The current HERC property would be an absolutely ideal stately location for a long-needed new town hall.

Wouldn’t it be wise to at least consider such an event in the future?

Most cities in Alaska have a community center which may or may not have a combined convention/conference center. As a one-third owner of a 10-12 acre property for 47 years that sits between Sterling Highway and the ocean at the bottom of the road from Bluff Point to Homer, it has long left me thinking about what would be the best use of this land in the best interest of our community. This parcel of land would most certainly be suitable for an urban park with an exceptional and attractive architectural installation at its east end. This facility would function as a park, including a convention/community center, a major revenue generator for Homer. People entering look towards the landscape of Kachemak Bay, the ocean, the spit, the mountains, the glaciers and rarely to the left (north). The HERC construction site seems barely visible when you go into town. Imagine the impressions people would get from a unique entry experience. Imagine how proud Homer’s citizens would be of such a facility. Imagine how all of this would reverberate throughout the community with a sense of pride for all of us.

The City Council should restructure the Stantec agreement to include all land in Homer that would be best suited for a community/convention center to meet the requirements of the Economic Development Authority.

The city council is expected to adhere to the overall 2018 development plan and benefit the community. Otherwise, what good is a comprehensive plan?

Also, the town of Homer should seriously consider buying the Bay Club. The purchase price would most certainly be much lower than creating such a facility from scratch. City ownership could significantly reduce citizen participation and usage costs, with mental and physical health clearly the beneficiaries of such a facility. A facility called PEAK in Great Falls, Montana is a very good model. If the City of Homer duplicates the services of the Bay Club, it would be a gross violation of antitrust.

Although funding through EDA is difficult, as always, all sources of funding should be sought: state grants, service unit area, hospital participation, Seldovia Village Tribe, health insurance companies and foundations. A small ad hoc committee comprising local citizens with financial expertise should certainly be considered.

Homer is a unique, quaint and friendly community that is sure to grow. May we all make genuine efforts to make it economical, user-friendly, with physically and mentally healthy citizens.

William J. Marley resides in Homer.

William Marley’s proposal for a bayside park on the Sterling Highway. (Illustration provided)

Jill E. Washington