Bar on the brink

Ashleigh Strange and Teri Anderson/Sun Star Reporters
April 16, 2013

Formerly known as the “Blue Marlin” with the “best damn pizza in town,” the Marlin Bar on College Road has been a favorite haunt in Fairbanks since the 1970s. Generations of UAF students frequent the Marlin because of it’s proximity to campus. However, the Marlin has found itself embroiled in a legal dispute with the Community Planning Fairbanks North Star Borough Platting Board.

In 2003, the owners of the Marlin made an addition to the building by adding a small fence on the west side facing Beaver Sports. That small fence became a big problem because it sticks outside the Marlin’s official property lines into the Hayes Street right-of-way. Hayes street runs between the Marlin and Beaver Sports and according to borough zoning laws the road needs 50 feet on either side as a footpath and maintenance area. The Marlin took up 3.3 feet of the right-of-way outside its legal boundaries.

In a March meeting, the Borough Platting and Zoning Board addressed a complaint from Blizzard Alaska Survey about the Marlin’s zoning violation.

David Throop, who worked for the College Road Service Area in 2003, said the situation hasn’t improved. “I see that as a continuing problem where people encroach on the roads and they think it’s their property,” Throop said.

The service area is in charge of maintaining the road but with only a 45 foot space, Hayes St.residents might lose services like ditching or snow removal. In addition, Hayes may become valuable real estate since the woods behind the Marlin are all owned by the borough and the space has the potential to become a community area.

Gerry Ostrow is the landowner of the Marlin and doesn’t think the surrounding area will be any good for community use. “When they’re talking about trying to save this 50 foot right of way for some development in the back, we’re talking about swamp back there,” Ostrow said. “That’s all swamp.” Ostrow said that the few feet of fence on her building won’t harm anyone.

The Marlin added a boiler room in the late ’70s that oversteps the right-of-way. A beer cooler was also added to the same side in the early ’90s.The addition of the fence in 2003 received the most complaints from the service area. The area only goes into the right of way by approximately 3 feet but the three additions total about 30 square feet outside of the Marlin’s boundary.

Marlin owner Rick Menzik said that he received construction approval for the fence from one of the neighboring property owners before they started building. Ostrow also asked Beaver Sports if there was any objection but the store never replied. Ostrow says the construction was never challenged by anyone when the original addition went up in the 1970s. “The truth is, things were different in the ’70s… things were more casual,” Ostrow said. “It’s not so much an excuse as an explanation that nobody at that point in time said that was going to be a problem.”

Some didn’t buy that as a valid excuse. Margery Kniffin also attended the Mar. 20 committee meeting. “Having been here through all of the ’60s and every decade thereafter, I do not think we were totally casual about property lines,” Kniffin said.

Borough Code of Ordinances Title 17 states that in these circumstances,  all land brought before the Platting Board is deemed valuable to the municipality until proved otherwise by the complainant (Blizzard Alaska Survey).

The board failed the motion that would require the Marlin to vacate the premises but Ostrow’s troubles aren’t over yet. The motion failed because the Platting Board said Blizzard Alaska Survey did not prove that the area isn’t  practical for use or that other provisions would be more beneficial to the public.

In her closing comments to the board, Ostrow said she feels that as a local watering hole, the Marlin does a public service. “It would be a shame to see a building like this burn because it’s been such a great community asset,” Ostrow said.

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