Fairbanks McDonald's fails to mend fences with new barrier

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Perhaps Robert Frost wasn't right on the money when he wrote, ''Good fences make good neighbors.''

Kathi Cinkosky, owner of the McDonald's on Geist Road, thought a long-standing contest of wills with a homeowner would end with construction this summer of a $90,000 partition between the restaurant and her neighbor.

''It's not just a fence,'' Cinkosky said. ''It's an acoustical sound-barrier wall. It is structurally amazing. It turned out way past our expectations.''

But Bruce Phillips, who has lived in his home for 20 years, says the new divider has done little to lessen his concerns about sight and sound. Over the years he has increasingly protested the 12-year-old restaurant's existence next door.

In answer, McDonald's corporate engineers designed the wall to act as a barrier between the restaurant and the houses behind it. The McDonald's corporation paid for the wall, which is made of recycled lumber.

''We are trying to give our neighbors some peace,'' said Cinkosky, who bought all four Interior McDonald's restaurants a year ago, in effect buying into the problem that began so long before.

''It was our decision to go ahead and take care of it,'' she said. ''I thought it was the right thing to do as a corporate citizen and to be a good neighbor in the community.''

Anyone driving along Geist Road can see that Phillips is not as thrilled by the 13 1/2-foot wall as Cinkosky.

Effigies of Ronald McDonald hang from a rope attached to Phillips' home on Eve Avenue.

''They've made the minimal amount of effort,'' Phillips said of the new barrier. ''We had asked for a certain design that we felt was important, and they chose to do what they wanted to do. It's a lose-lose situation.''

Phillips said he asked McDonald's to build a 19-foot wall. The new one isn't high enough or wide enough or thick enough to block the sights, sounds and smells of McDonald's, he said.

He said he can still see the restaurant's lights from his master bedroom and his kitchen. ''After 12 or 13 years of getting rattled, we expected them to do a good job.''

The stuffed Ronald will not come down from the noose until Phillips is satisfied.

''I'm not giving up,'' he said. ''I am thoroughly disappointed with McDonald's and the borough planning department. They want Joe Resident to fight the big corporation all by himself.''

The borough says the restaurant is in compliance with regulations, which have allowed the land along Geist Road to be zoned as general commercial. When Phillips purchased his property two decades ago, however, the lot where McDonald's now stands consisted of trees and small cabins.

''Once the zoning was in place, there was nothing anyone could do,'' said Bernardo Hernandez, deputy planning director for the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

''McDonald's has really tried to do something,'' Hernandez said. ''They're doing a lot to be good neighbors.''

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