Plans to shutter and convert the city's No. 1 Liquor store into a small park are a mistake, said members of the North College Park Civic Association on Thursday.
“(The liquor store) may look ugly,” said Larry Bleau, former president of the civic association. “But that’s not a reason to close it.”
According to budget documents, some $371,000 has been allocated to the effort under an initiative called “Project Open Space.” Of those funds, about $22,000 has been spent on appraisals and consulting fees already; the other $348,600 would go to the liquor store's owner, who has yet to make a decision over the buyout.
Yet in a largely symbolic gesture, the civic association passed a unanimous motion asking the council to scrub the project out altogether.
Mayor Andrew Fellows, along with Dist. 1 Councilmembers Patrick Wojahn and Christine Nagle, were present during the meeting.
Wojahn remains on the fence about the issue. Ideally, he said in an email, he'd prefer to broker a deal with the store's owner. However, if a deal can't be reached, the city could potentially use eminent domain, which may have the effect of deterring other small businesses from opening up shop in College Park.
On the other hand:
"I think that having a liquor store in the midst of student housing is both an eyesore and a public safety hazard," he said. "I do have concerns about the fact that a large group of underage students have such easy access to alcohol."
While Beau said the city's efforts may seem laudable, he questioned the wisdom in swapping out tax revenues for a small park — using government funds, no less.
“Is this something that’s going to be applied consistently? Are you going to start taking any business that you don’t like away?” he pondered during a telephone interview on Friday.
“It just isn’t a good move — from a planning perspective,” Bleau said.
Diana Claburn, also a North College Park Civic Association member, struck similar tones following the Thursday night meeting. “No. 1 Liquors has been around for a long time” Claburn said. “Well before the (nearby) student housing.”
“They should not be taking this (storeowner’s) livelihood away,” she said. “It sets a bad precedent.”
Such concerns are no stranger to city officials, who received similar input from residents during a public hearing on March 8.
The owner of No. 1 Liquor was not available for comment prior to publishing this story.