City moves ahead with Greatland expansion project
The Homer City Council paved the way for the city to move forward with the planned expansion of Greatland Avenue by voting down a request to reconsider. With the move, the city will continue its plans to extend the road through to Pioneer Avenue.
"I believe this will be a benefit to the community from the north and south corridors," said councilman Heath Smith. "I believe we have done our due diligence on this."
The city's plan will extend Greatland Avenue in an effort to improve traffic control, as well as improve safety in the area.
"I'm strongly in favor of the road going through, not so much for the store but for the people that patronize it," said Brian Amos, a manager at Sav-U-More. "Last year alone, we had 427,000 sales at our registers and that gives you some idea of traffic flow. It's not an exact science as I'm sure there are people that walk there. It also doesn't include people that didn't buy anything. It (traffic) is significant. In the summer, when the bypass is busy, people are forced to make a right turn. I've watched numerous potential accidents. You can only make a right and then make a u-turn to go back going the other way.
"Just think of what it would alleviate as far as traffic flow," he added.
Proponents of the road also said the extension would eliminate a problem for the city by removing an area where drug and homeless activity have been found, as well as improving foot and bicycle access to the area.
"People may or may not know the amount of homeless activity that goes on that trail. That trail is not maintained properly," Amos said. "I find hypodermic needs on it. I find broken glass on it all the time. Not this summer, but the previous summer, we had the fire department putting out a fire in the trees there. There are a lot of benefits to the street coming through. This is a simple solution, in my opinion, to effectively help the traffic in the summer."
Opponents of the plan say the decision to expand the road was rushed and failed to align the new outlet with Bartlett. Additionally, opponents claim there are other roads in the city's plan that should have priority, including one improving access to Karen Hornaday Park.
The council did make a minor change to its $637,000 Greatland Avenue extension project, electing to add a sidewalk on both sides of the road to create a safe avenue for pedestrians.
In other business, the council approved a contract with Liberty Electric, Inc. for $22,237 for the design and installation of a backup generator for the harbormaster building, and a contract with The Alaskan Fish Factory for the operation and maintenance of the fish grinding facility at a rate of $32 per hour.
Additionally, the council voted to not reconsider its ordinance allowing employee-occupied recreational vehicles in the Marine Commercial and Marine Industrial Zoning Districts.
"The idea that it will become an RV haven out there isn't the case," said Smith. "This (ordinance) may affect 10 businesses. I understand that there are concerns and that we haven't looked under every rock, but this is a value to our businesses. However, if they (the businesses) abuse it, they'll lose it."
The council voted overwhelmingly to not reconsider the ordinance.