News from Patrick Flynn

South Anchorage scrum

The agenda for tonight’s Assembly meeting includes a normally mundane item, a conditional use permit (CUP) for a new package (liquor) store on Huffman Road, across from Carrs, in South Anchorage.  I say mundane, because city code requires every package store (and bar, and restaurant with a beer & wine license) to obtain a CUP that the Assembly reviews every two years.  Violations of a CUP are grounds for revocation of the liquor license and the conditions contained within CUPs define for the state Alcohol Beverage Control board our community’s expectations of operators.  But this application appears to be anything but mundane.

Indeed, in recent days the Assembly received communications from the Home And Landowners Organization (or HALO, which serves as a sort of umbrella association for South Anchorage community councils) and several South Anchorage residents opposing this CUP for the Wine House, as the store would be named.  Here’s what HALO had to say:

The HALO Board discussed the CU request for an alcohol package store at 1330 Huffman Rd at their August and September meetings. Based on our familiarity of the area and the Title 21.50.020 conditions for issuing a CU, the Board voted to deny the location for this package store for the following reasons:

  1. There is no demonstrated need for an additional package store given that there are already five such stores within a mile of this proposed location (Oaken Keg at Carr’s, Tesoro at New Seward Hwy & Huffman Rd, Value Liquor at Klatt & the Old Seward Hwy, Holiday & Wine Styles both near the Old Seward Hwy & O’Malley Rd). Granting this CU would result in three package stores being within a block of each other on Huffman Rd.
  2. Traffic and parking are an issue at this location. While this small strip mall is grandfathered-in as a non-conforming building, there is not enough parking for the existing businesses. One business relocated recently due to inadequate parking.  It would be reasonable to expect a liquor store to generate traffic consisting of many short-duration trips, thus making this area more congested.  With a crowded parking lot, there are higher risks for pedestrians. The intersection on Huffman Rd, where the package store wants to locate, will be remodeled next year and there will be a round-about installed with a place for pedestrians to cross. The ped-crossing will funnel pedestrians to this strip mall, and its side street, where the traffic congestion exits. No. 3 below describes the expected increase in residential development and density; this will occur south of Huffman Rd behind the proposed liquor store. As development occurs so will pedestrian traffic and they will be crossing Huffman Rd via the round-about.
  3. The 2020 Comprehensive Plan, and the HDP, call for this Huffman area to be the commercial center for a large part of the SE Anchorage population. It already is a very busy spot where many of us shop, as the traffic congestion can attest.

These Plans also envision this area becoming a higher density residential locale (south of Huffman Rd). Currently, it is a family-friendly shopping environment with many independent stores. As the adjacent higher density residential area develops, there will be a greater demand for more family-friendly shops squeezed into the limited space between the Old and New Seward highways. Another liquor store does not conform to the vision of our 2020 and Hillside District Plans for the Huffman commercial area.

And, in the interest of balance, here’s what the putative business owner had to say:

I write this letter to introduce myself to you and ask your support for my planned liquor store-the Wine House at Huffman which is on the Agenda 14.C. for Tuesday’s meeting.

By way of background, I currently own and operate two package store called Dimond Liquor on west Diamond Blvd. and the Wine House on Jewel Lake Road.  I have been in the industry for a total of nine years and there has been two violations in total.  In spite of two violations over nine year period, my business is centered on the premise that community needs come first.  I have strict polices regarding sales to minors and inebriates and simply do not tolerate sales to persons without proper adherence to the law.  My employees know this as do my customers.

The Wine House at Huffman as proposed will be a high-end liquor establishment centered on the sales of boutique wines, beers, and liquors.  It will not be a big-box store, but an Alaskan owned operation who will answer to the needs of community and neighborhood not a blight on it.

The local residents have voiced concern that the location of the proposed operation borders a residential neighborhood.  While there is nothing illegal or inappropriate about this location, I have listened to the needs of the community and plan on addressing this concern in the following ways:

  • 24 hours a day video monitoring and recording of the parking lot, alley, with multiple cameras inside the facility.
  • Hourly monitoring by employees of the premise, parking lot, and alley.
  • Mandatory carding of ALL patrons regardless of age.
  • Attendance at Community Council Meetings to continue to address needs from the neighborhood.

I would gladly meet with you to discuss my planned operations at the Wine House.  I sincerely hope the Assembly will give me a chance to open and operate another community oriented establishment.  I will be accountable to the needs of the neighborhood and to the Assembly.  As I see it, the Assembly will review this license if issued in less than two years.  If I have not lived up to my promises to the neighborhood, the Assembly can exercise its discretion in not renewing the license.  I simply ask for the chance to prove myself.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this regard.  Please contact me if you have any further concerns or if you would like to speak to me directly.

Okay, so this isn’t a new story – a business wishes to establish itself and area residents don’t seem too fond of the idea.  And the Assembly gets to arbitrate that disagreement so we weigh various factors.  Here’s a sampling:

Argument against: The community has argued against other package stores (proposed by Holiday & Walgreen’s, I believe) along the south side of Huffman Road and those operators have dropped plans in the face of community opposition.

Argument for granting the CUP: The applicant has followed the public process, paid for permits, made a lease deposit and offered concessions to address neighborhood concerns.

Argument against: There are already other package stores in the nearby area.

Argument for: Of course there are, it’s one of the few commercial areas in South Anchorage.  (Flaw in this argument, when Brown Jug sought to add a store on West Dimond, across from Fred Meyer, I’m pretty sure the owner seeking this CUP employed this same argument against that CUP because of concerns it would negatively affect Dimond Liquor, which is also across the street from Fred Meyer and one of the stores he mentions in his letter.)

Argument against: This type of establishment is not appropriate for our neighborhood, particularly because of its proximity to residential properties.

Argument for: In addition to a lot of door-to-door walking, when I first ran for the Assembly I met with several groups.  One was a cabal of business owners where a comment from a South Anchorage business owner and resident still reverberates in my mind.  It was something to the effect of,

“Those of us in South Anchorage are NIMBYs and we’re proud of it – we don’t want your problems in our part of town.”

As someone who represents neighborhoods that shoulder a disproportionately high portion of our community’s social services I confess that hearing that sort of talk really bothers me.  I would note that in the months of difficult deliberations and debate over housing chronic public inebriates not one of the South Anchorage residents now opposing this CUP said a single word about the proposed Karluk Manor, despite the very public concerns of Fairview residents, nor did they speak up about Brown Jug’s West Dimond CUP application, which is only a few miles from Huffman Road.  That doesn’t make this new store a good idea, just as the deafening silence on greater community issues fails to strengthen neighborhood-specific opposition.

In short, I’ll head for Assembly chambers in a couple hours without a clear idea of how I intend to vote on this issue.  I’ll listen carefully to those who choose to testify and, ultimately, make a decision.  But no matter how I vote, I’m sure I’ll wonder if it was the right call.



This contribution was made on Tuesday, 12. October 2010 at 14:59 and was published under the category Neighborhoods. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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1 Comment

  1. Why isn’t the Avenue Bar required to live up to the permanent conditions of AR-96-15 which were imposed on the bar in 1996 by the Anchorage Municipal Assembly ? Your predecessor Charles Wohlforth was instrumental in getting those conditions passed as a part of that resolution, why don’t you honor it ?

    Comment: bydalek – 20. November 2010 @ 6:27 pm

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