Convenience store proposal moves ahead

Ordinance would increase size of stores in residential neighborhoods

Posted: Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The Juneau Assembly has advanced an ordinance that would increase the size of convenience stores in residential neighborhoods, despite opposition by some residents who fear it will lead to increased alcohol sales.

Store sizes in specified zones could increase from the current maximum of 3,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet, under the proposal. The two stores affected are Duck Creek Market on Stephen Richards Memorial Drive in the Mendenhall Valley and Breeze-In on Douglas Island.

The ordinance advanced Monday by the Assembly Committee of the Whole also would allow store owners the option to install a drive-through window.

Larger stores will lead to more alcohol-related abuse and crime, opponents say. Southeast Alaska is one of the heaviest drinking areas in the nation due to the availability of alcohol, says Matt Felix, executive director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Juneau has 74 registered liquor licenses.

A larger Breeze-In store would also exacerbate problems where traffic merges from downtown, Douglas and North Douglas, opponents assert. The Douglas Breeze-In is located over the bridge from Juneau. Nina Brown, who lives about 200 feet from the Douglas Breeze-In, is concerned that a larger store would increase traffic congestion and alter the atmosphere of the neighborhood.

Proponents argue the proposed ordinance is better than the one on the books. The current ordinance provides smaller setbacks and doesn't 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, Breeze-In Owner Al Ahlgren has said.

Ahlgren says he plans to nearly double the size of the retail space that sells alcohol, and to install gasoline pumps.

Ahlgren has no plans for a drive-through window, but Duck Creek Market wants that option available in the ordinance, co-owner Jack Manning said. Manning said he may sell coffee through a drive-through window. The construction of a second high school in the Mendenhall Valley may influence whether he installs a window, he said.

State law prohibits the sale of alcohol through a drive-through window. Some opponents fear store clerks will sell alcohol through a window anyway.

Duck Creek co-owner Tom Manning said a drive-through window is subject to a conditional use permit by the planning commission. Further, state law requires alcohol sales occur in a separate area from a drive-through window.

Randy Wanamaker was the lone Assembly member to vote against the ordinance. Assembly members Jeannie Johnson, Mayor Bruce Botelho and Merrill Sanford were absent for the vote.

Wanamaker said he wanted to be sure that the city was setting and evaluating criteria for a traffic study at the Douglas Breeze-In location. A traffic analysis is required under the proposed ordinance. Wanamaker wanted to be sure that the project applicant wasn't the only one making decisions about the study.

The ordinance could be set for public hearing as early as April 12. If approved, the ordinance is then subject to review by the Planning Commission.

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