I’ve felt a lot of empathy with our friends in the Muldoon area, in another part of East Anchorage as they grapple with commercial redevelopment. There is a large Fred Meyer grocery/variety store there that’s reportedly the most profitable location in the Fred Meyer chain. Now, nearby on a large tract of undeveloped land, Wal-Mart wants to build a “supercenter” and a Sam’s Club. To do so, they need a rezone. This has so far been denied, despite heavy-handed tactics and offers of voluntary upgrades to lessen the impact of the new center. The residents of bucolic, suburban Old Harbor Road have a lot to lose — they’d trade woodlands along the back of their property for bright lights, asphalt and plastic bags hanging in the trees.
The municipality and mayor have been telling the neighborhood that a negotiated settlement that includes giving Wal-Mart the rezoning they want is the best deal for all — but the neighborhood isn’t buying it.
Last week the Anchorage Assembly tabled a vote on the rezone request. It’s already been rejected by the Municipal Planning and Zoning Commission and by a vote of the members of the Northeast Community Council. A look at the public comments on P&Z’s site shows that people feel strongly about this one.
In Mt View, the members of the community council voted 13-2 [with four abstentions] in favor of the POB Montgomery mall project. The same type of convincing and overselling of the merits of the project seem to be falling flat in Muldoon. It’s amazing that the city and Wal-Mart don’t seem to be listening.
Update 10/18/06: last night the Anchorage Assembly voted 8-2-1 in favor of allowing the rezone, and the full project will now proceed. Big business won this one, and it’s a serious loss of ability to provide input at the neighborhood level.