Thursday, May 22, 2008

Muldoon Wal-Mart gets the last laugh

Well it looks like Wal-Mart has become the overall victor in the seemingly endless battle between Wal-Mart/Sam's Club and the residents of the surrounding Muldoon neighborhoods. Wal-Mart will no longer have to comply with its previous "give-backs" to Muldoon which included a 2 acre park, a 200 ft. buffer between the big box development and the Old Harbor neighborhood, a plant filled median, and a plaza roundabout between the Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores. I have to wonder though, since when was a plant filled median considered an "amenity"? At least that's how the ADN described the median among other things now lost in the deal. So why does Wal-Mart no longer have to give Muldoon its plant filled median and other generous amenities? Earlier this year a judge ruled that the Anchorage Assembly's approval for Wal-Mart's rezoning was flawed as the Planning and Zoning Department was left out of changes made by the Muni and the public while Assembly member Dan Coffey had a conflict of interest that other Assembly members brushed off as being non-harmful to the process. As a result, Wal-Mart, now with its little piece of land zoned for commercial use, has decided to squeeze both its new Supercenter and Sam's Club into the remaining 33 acres which will have both buildings side by side with a large parking lot right in front of DeBarr Road old school suburban style! The remaining land that Wal-Mart bought for the Assembly approved rezone will be sold as they return back to residential use.

Now that this whole mess seems to be over, I say the Assembly deserves the humiliation. For Mayor Begich and the Assembly to bend over backwards for a business that would throw off entirely the Creekside Town Center master plan was frustrating to watch. Sure Wal-Mart owned the land, and it has a right to do what it wants so long as they meet the building codes of the area, but to rubber stamp Wal-Mart's demand to convert residential property into commercial was a demand we never had to meet. We could've just said "oh you own residential land around the commercial property too? That's nice...", and leave it at that. While Anchorage has spent years whipping up a sustainable 2020 plan that involves mass transit, compact development, etc, Wal-Mart's sudden barge into that particular area was an affront to the whole city as the Creekside Town Center project was beginning to get underway just across the street. In the end, I will miss that plant filled median that never was...

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