Public Hearing Today on Pedestrian Access Between Mall and Rack
Advocates, merchants to testify about impacts of lost sidewalk, entryway
Contact: Linda Boggs
Phone: (907) 696-0646
MEDIA: DAY OF EVENT REMINDER
June 13, 2016
NOTE TO ASSIGNMENT DESKS: MERCHANTS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS AT MALL THIS AFTERNOON; PLEASE CALL.
Anchorage: Today at 6:30 p.m., a Planning & Zoning public hearing gives merchants and shoppers the chance to testify about the real-life impacts of a remodel at the Mall at Sears intended to accommodate the new Rack.
The changes have impacted safety and accessibility by forcing shoppers outside to walk between the Rack and the rest of the Mall, said Linda Boggs, spokesperson for a group of merchants at the Mall who oppose the changes. Now the only way to go between the store and the rest of the Mall is either through Sears or along an access drive abutting the building, where a sidewalk was removed for the loading dock project.
Among those expected to share their testimony at the hearing are advocates for disabled and senior access who have expressed particular concern over the changes.
Based on transcripts, said Boggs, Commission members did express concerns over safety and accessibility, but Planning Department staff limited them in how they could address the issues.
“Staff told the Commission all they could do was tell the developer how to spend its required 10 percent of budget toward bringing the older site closer to current standards,” she said. “But this little section does not override the Commission’s larger responsibility, which is to avoid approving any plan that is unsafe, or that moves a site farther away from current standards. I think they missed the forest for the trees.”
Public input will help the commission make a better-informed decision.
The merchants who appealed the original decision contend the plan, submitted by Sears, creates public safety issues that, under Municipal Code, should never have been approved. Under the code, changes in an existing large retail establishment built prior to Big Box standards cannot be approved if they move a site farther from conforming with these standards, which include such factors as safety, convenience, Northern design elements and public access to amenities.
Originally scheduled for March, the meeting was rescheduled after Sears failed to post the property with the notices required for a public hearing. Originally scheduled for March, the meeting was rescheduled after Sears failed to post the property with the notices required for a public hearing. Those who could not participate in person were invited to submit commits in writing or online by Friday, June 10. The page www.mallatsears.com/web/appeal/ provides background on the plan as well as the group’s objections to it. It also highlights a video showing how people walk alongside cars to get between the Rack and the rest of the Mall.