HOMER - The Homer City Council has voted to fend off a feared invasion of big box stores by setting a size limit on new retail construction.
By a 5-1 vote, the council on Monday approved a limit of 35,000 square feet in the town's central business district. That's smaller than the 45,000-square-foot store Fred Meyer said it hopes to build in Homer.
The size limit is the first of its kind in Alaska, city officials said. Towns in the Lower 48 have used such limits as a way of shaping community development.
The new Homer law sets standards for some types of new commercial construction, covering such matters as lighting, landscaping and even architectural design. It also calls for review of community affects of new proposals.
The council vote follows two years of discussion and more than 45 public meetings and work sessions that split the community, but the matter is not over. The Homer council also set a June 15 election date for a special vote, requested by petitioners, that would impose a more generous 66,000-square-foot limit for new construction.
"Sixty-six thousand seemed like a good political compromise," said Bruce Turkington, a second-generation Homer resident and manager of the Spenard Builders Supply branch.
Critics of the box-store limit say they resent having to drive north to find cheaper prices. They say the bigger stores will bring jobs, better service and new sales tax revenues.
Supporters say the chain stores drive out better-paying jobs and locally owned businesses.
The new law allows a 45,000-square-foot limit only in a newly annexed area east of downtown, along an unlandscaped mile of gravel piles and steel-walled buildings.
A spokesman for Fred Meyer told the Anchorage Daily News the company is "very disappointed" in the city's decision.
"This ordinance effectively kills the Fred Meyer project in Homer's central business district," said spokesman Rob Boley.
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