A proposal to build a 160-foot microwave tower atop the Homer bluff has residents in the area concerned about their property values and views of Kachemak Bay. The City of Homer Planning Commission has already signed off on the project but it could still get hung up in the legal system.
The company applying for the permit is Anchorage-based Kodiak Microwave System. In its application to the city, the company says the 160-foot tower would be located on a five-acre lot in the Eker Estates subdivision, near the top of East Hill Road along Skyline Drive.
The purpose of the tower is to provide broadband Internet services to the communities of Port Graham, Nanwalek, Halibut Cove and Nikolaevsk, as well as residents out East End Road. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has requested the tower as a way to provide better Internet service to schools in Nanwalek and Port Graham, and the Port Graham Village Council has said the tower would greatly improve business and education in that community.
In a Dec. 4 report, the city planning department recommended that the planning commission approve the plan, which it did, unanimously, at its last meeting.
Homer Planning Director Rick Abboud says that the city has followed the process for this permit as it's laid out in city code, including notifying all property owners within 300 feet of the proposed tower.
Abboud says communications towers like the one proposed by Kodiak Microwave are not unusual in rural residential areas along the Homer bluff.
"Right on the other side of Skyline (Drive) ... you'll see a cluster of them," he said. "So there is a precedent."
Before the vote, the commission received a handful of letters from neighbors who are opposed to the microwave tower.
Kevin and Kathleen Fay live out of state but own property in the area. They wondered about the possible impacts of radiation emitted from the tower and the possibility of "cancer-causing radio waves."
Scott Adams says he is more concerned about the effect the tower would have on the view and how that might affect the value of his property.
Perhaps the most vocal opponent of the plan has been Kevin Dee. Dee is the executive director of AGEYA Camp, a wilderness camp for Alaska Native youths that operates in the summertime. Although the camp is not within 300 feet of the tower site, Dee says it would definitely be affected.
"This represents a taking of value," said Dee. "There's going to be harm done here and the city should not help to facilitate that."
Kodiak Microwave says the tower would not be visible from downtown Homer or the Homer Spit but Dee disagrees with that. He says he has spent a lot of time recently researching microwave towers and speaking with his neighbors in the area, who he says are united against the tower project.
Some of the neighbors have already retained Homer attorney Lindsey Wolter to represent them. In a cease-and-desist letter sent to Kodiak Microwave Thursday, Wolter says the proposed tower violates conditions of a 1990 covenant for the Eker Estates subdivision where it would be built.
The covenant states that, within the subdivision, "no lot shall be used except for residential purposes." It also expressly forbids buildings more than two stories in height and satellite installations that detract from the view.
Rick Abboud says the neighbors' disagreement about the covenant will have to work its way through the legal system and that is not something that is within the City of Homer's purview.
Abboud says the next step in the process would be a final "yes or no" decision from himself and the chair of the planning commission. Once that is issued, anyone who opposes the decision would have 30 days to file an appeal, which would then be heard by the Homer City Council, acting as the Board of Adjustment.