City may reconsider convenience-store size

Ordinance would allow neighborhood stores to increase square-footage by two-thirds

Posted: Sunday, January 25, 2004

Some residents are concerned over the city's plan to revisit a controversial proposal that would increase the size of convenience stores in residential neighborhoods.

The Juneau Assembly Lands Committee will hear public testimony on the proposed ordinance at 5 p.m. Monday in the Assembly chambers.

The ordinance would allow convenience stores to increase from 3,000 to 5,000 square feet. The stores at issue are Breeze-In on Douglas Island and Duck Creek Market on Stephen Richards Memorial Drive in the Mendenhall Valley.

Larger stores will encourage more alcohol sales, said Cindy Cashen, the executive director of the Juneau Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Studies show that alcohol abuse rises in areas where alcohol is more accessible in a neighborhood setting, she said.

"They're out to make a buck; we're out to save lives," Cashen said. "There is a difference."

Breeze-In Owner Al Ahlgren said he plans to nearly double the alcohol retail space, under the proposed ordinance, but said it would not cause more drinking.

"Will a larger store make people drink more?" Ahlgren asked.

A larger Breeze-In would exacerbate problems where traffic merges from downtown, Douglas and North Douglas, opponents also assert. The Douglas Breeze-In is located just over the Douglas Bridge where that traffic merges.

Nina Brown lives about 200 feet from the Douglas Breeze-In and is concerned that a larger store would increase traffic congestion and alter the atmosphere of a neighborhood.

Ahlgren and Lands Committee Chairman Merrill Sanford said the proposed ordinance would improve the community.

Ahlgren wants to increase the Breeze-In to the maximum 5,000 square feet allowed under the proposed ordinance, and said he likely will sell gasoline.

The ordinance also allows drive-up window service, but Ahlgren has no plans for that, he said.

Ahlgren said he worked a deal with the state Department of Transportation to trade land in exchange for a left-turn lane when the state builds a roundabout in front of his store this summer.

A roundabout is a traffic circle that allows motorists to branch off into different directions.

The proposed ordinance is better for the neighborhood than the one on the books, he said. The current ordinance allows smaller setbacks and does not require landscaping and fencing along the property line shared with a residential lot.

The setback between Brown's property line and the Douglas store is 5 feet, compared to 20 feet under the proposed ordinance, Ahlgren said.

Sanford said the proposed ordinance will decrease the amount of traffic on the main thoroughfares.

The proposed ordinance failed to pass the Assembly's Public Works and Facilities Committee about a year ago and was sent to the Law and Community Development departments for review, Sanford said. Ahlgren recently asked the city to revisit the ordinance.

The Lands Committee will decide whether to move the proposed ordinance to the Committee of the Whole or full Assembly, Sanford said.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.



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