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Residents debate safety issues surrounding local business' move

Posted: August 16, 2013 - 12:08am
A sign notifying residents of a conditional use permit for Landscape Alaska stands at the end of the road where the business would be located.  Katie Moritz | Juneau Empire
Katie Moritz | Juneau Empire
A sign notifying residents of a conditional use permit for Landscape Alaska stands at the end of the road where the business would be located.

A local business that’s been operating in Juneau for more than 30 years is looking to move into a residential neighborhood, worrying some neighbors who fear the business could bring an unsafe influx in traffic and an unattractive amount of noise.

Margaret Tharp and David Lendrum, who own and operate Landscape Alaska, currently lease space for their greenhouse company on Commercial Boulevard. However, that land was recently purchased, forcing them to move elsewhere. After 30 years of leasing space around town, it was time for the business to have a permanent home, Tharp said. So, the pair purchased a picturesque spot at the top of a secluded road off Mendenhall Loop Road.

The potential move is meeting some opposition from nearby homeowners, some of whom have lived in the neighborhood for decades, and many of whom built houses there because of the neighborhood’s seclusion. All the properties near the would-be landscaping business are residential. But because the area is zoned D-3, the parcel in question is eligible for all kinds of businesses to be placed there, as long as a conditional use permit is applied for and approved by the city. Landscape Alaska has applied for a conditional use permit for the lot, according to city documents.

To gauge public feelings toward Landscape Alaska’s potential move, CBJ held a neighborhood meeting at Mendenhall River Community School on Thursday evening, facilitated by community development planner Jonathan Lange. About 15 people attended, and reactions were mixed — about six people actively spoke out against the business’ move — but centered around a concern for safety. The road on which the business would be located is dirt and fairly narrow, wide enough for only one car to pass through at a time. Lendrum said the business would not get many retail callers. But neighbors were concerned about even a few, as there’s a lack of space for parking. They said they are worried the parking would spill over onto the dirt road.

G. Ole Olson, who 16 years ago built a house on Spring Way, near the potential Landscape Alaska property, said she doesn’t think a neighborhood is the place for a business.

“I want our houses to stay as a neighborhood; we built because of the neighborhood,” Olson said during the meeting. “The other day, I was listening to the birds and I was smoking some fish and I thought to myself, ‘All this could change drastically in a very short time.’”

The business owners assured the residents at the meeting that the business doesn’t use any loud equipment and has done a lot for the community. Even their business, Lendrum said, would be easy on the eyes.

“What we do is attractive,” Lendrum said. “We surround everything with plant materials.”

Garri Constantine, who has lived on nearby Goat Hill Road for 40 years, was in the minority at the meeting — he said he supports the business’ move to the neighborhood.

“I think it’s a neighborhood business,” Constantine said after the meeting. “If it were a drilling company, I’d think differently.”

A public hearing on Landscape Alaska’s conditional use permit will be held at the Aug. 27 Planning Commission meeting, 7 p.m. in City Hall’s Assembly Chambers. Juneau residents are welcome to speak on the issue at that time.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com.

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