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Municipal land eyed for new Rustic Goat parking lot

Devin Kelly

Since opening in February to brisker-than-expected business, the Rustic Goat bistro in Turnagain has faced a vexing parking problem.

Customers who drive to the restaurant and find the main parking lot packed routinely park on the surrounding neighborhood streets. While legal, the street parking has drawn complaints and created public safety concerns for people who live in the area. The restaurant has responded by renting parking spaces from nearby businesses, posting signs and appealing on Facebook for customers to be good neighbors, but frictions have persisted.

Now a piece of municipal land near the southeast corner of Northern Lights Boulevard and Turnagain Street is being considered for a new parking lot. The proposed lot would be built on part of the two-acre property, adding 28 parking spaces and a pedestrian connection to Turnagain Street.

The suggestion to use the municipal land came from the municipality itself, said Tim Gravel, president of Kaladi Brothers Coffee Co., which operates the Rustic Goat. The flat, grassy area, originally acquired in the 1980s as a buffer zone for construction of the railroad underpass on West Northern Lights Boulevard, has sat vacant for more than two decades. The restaurant is required to gain a land use permit as well as a conditional use permit in order to build there.

Gravel noted that the current number of parking spaces provided by the restaurant exceeds what is required by code. But, he said, the restaurant wants to be a good neighbor and work to ease traffic pressures.

"No one wants customers parking in residential areas, that are upsetting people," Gravel said. "So the (city) suggested we work in this buffer zone and create something."

An ordinance approving the plan must first pass through the Anchorage Assembly. A public hearing on the issue will take place at the Assembly's meeting Tuesday at Z.J. Loussac Library.

The proposed site plan calls for preservation of the existing trees and vegetation around the perimeter of the property, including lilacs and two caliper spruces. The city has determined that the project does not interfere with a nearby road project on Turnagain Street, according to a memorandum to the Assembly submitted by Mayor Dan Sullivan.

The land-use permit would generate an estimated $8,000 in annual revenue for the municipality, Robin Ward, land management officer with the Heritage Land Bank, wrote in an email.

Gravel presented the site plan proposal to the Turnagain Community Council in early June. Out of more than 15 people at the meeting, one person voted against the plans, said Bill Wortman, the president of the council.

"I'm sure (neighbors) want anything that'll help the parking situation along the street," Wortman said.


By DEVIN KELLY
dkelly@adn.com