Homer voters to decide whether to let big-box stores move into town

Posted: Wednesday, June 16, 2004

ANCHORAGE - Voters were to decide Tuesday what exactly is too big when it comes to stores in the scenic, seaside town of Homer.

A ballot initiative would allow a 66,000-square-foot store - more than twice the size of Homer's Safeway grocery store but less than half the size of either of Anchorage's two Costco stores.

The initiative, if defeated, would support new size limits adopted by the City Council in April. At 35,000 square feet for the downtown business district and 45,000 square feet elsewhere in the city, Homer's store restrictions are a first in Alaska.

As the City Council was working out the details of the new big-box ordinance, it enacted a temporary measure limiting retail stores to 20,000 square feet. It was that figure that prompted a group of citizens to put an initiative on a special election ballot boosting the maximum store size to 66,000 square feet.

"I could care less whether another business moves to Homer," said initiative supporter Bruce Turkington, "but I've always felt we should have free enterprise. You can't zone out (new businesses) to protect us that are already here."

Turkington, manager of Spenard Builders Supply and a former council member, said the larger size allowed by ballot initiative is small enough to protect businesses and aesthetics yet large enough to provide shoppers some choice.

It looks to be a close race with a high turnout, said City Clerk Mary Calhoun. The number of requests for absentee ballots was twice that of the last city election, she said.

The big-box issue is only the latest in a string of development battles in Homer since at least the 1970s. Area residents fought oil leases in Kachemak Bay and demanded a sign ordinance in the early 1980s when McDonald's arrived with its golden arches.

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