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Leave No. 1 Liquors Alone, says North College Park Civic Association

Opposition grows over plans to shutter and convert No. 1 Liquors into a small park

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 .

The owner of No. 1 Liquor was not available for comment prior to publishing this story.

Rick Hudson April 18, 2011 at 01:23 PM
If he runs his business legally there is no concern about underage drinking since he will card people for age restricted purchases. I really do not like the precedent that could arise from the eminent domain option.
mj23 April 18, 2011 at 03:30 PM
Residents need to speak out against the acquisition of #1 liquor store. If this continues, sadly it will only be the beginning of the City "taking" businesses either for or due to development projects. Currently there is a plan to extend Hollywood Road over into the Maza student housing. In order to do this, the City will need to "acquire" the businesses on that side of the road. The City will claim the yellow business buildings are an "eyesore" just like they are doing now. Please help stop this practice!!!!!
Rick Hudson April 18, 2011 at 04:21 PM
I am sure this will be effective since Town Hall liquors is soooooooo far away from that development. I mean college kids certainly will not cross the street to get a beer... that extra 200 feet is the best defense against underage and excessive drinking EVER!!! The council should outlaw bars in College Park, along with driving and eating in restaurants so none of those problems like underage drinking, horriffic car accidents and obesity can affect us! Certainly those are rights the city council can take from us to save us from ourselves. They can follow all this up with kicking ugly and overweight people out of the city because they deem us an eyesore.... where does this stop if they move forward on these grounds.
dawn matzen April 18, 2011 at 06:44 PM
i suggest the city council stop worrying about how to steal this man's property and get a handle on the crime in college park. it is becoming a serious problem that someone better pay attention or you won't have students enrolling and you won't have to worry about underage drinking. as a side note they should have made the developer improve the liquor store as part of the paln so it wouldn't be such an eyesore.
Adelphi Sky April 19, 2011 at 02:20 AM
Great argument except there's a liquor store directly across the street.
Adelphi Sky April 19, 2011 at 02:32 AM
I still haven't heard the idea of either 1, forcing the owner to remodel the place so that it wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb, or 2, assume space in the new building with a lifetime lease. Is there a problem with space in the new building? Those storefronts have been empty for quite some time. I'm sure a compromise can be made from those two points. In addition, how many liquor stores does a town need in one square mile? I mean really? Even the Shoppers Food Warehouse sells liquor. I thought I'd never see the day when people actually fought to keep a liquor store in their neighborhood!
Rick Hudson April 19, 2011 at 03:46 AM
It isn't about fighting to save a liquilor store. It is about the city using BS reasons to shut down a business. If this was really about proximity of students to alcohol then why not shut down Town Hall? Why let Looneys Pub open up two blocks up? Why give Hanami a liquor license? Go after Ledo's, Bentley's and the downtown bars afterall that is where all the drunken riots occur after the Terps occaisionally beat Duke. This is hippocracy in government at its worst!
Pamela Torro April 19, 2011 at 03:13 PM
Where are the prostitutes?
Pamela Torro April 19, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Eminent Domain and condemnation set a very bad precedent in a town that is losing long standing businesses such as Jungle Grille and Alarios. We should be supporting local business owners, not running them out of town. The amount of student housing being built seems to be out pacing the number of students enrolled. Already lost from that area are the Merchant's Tire and the Koon's. I don't think these empty storefront condos are any better than a liquor store that has been there for several years.
LRB April 19, 2011 at 04:32 PM
I made two comments while being interviewed that did not get into the story. One was that the property could be improved; a facelift, if you will. This would address the issue of it being an eyesore while allowing the business to continue to operate, and even improving the value of hte property for the owner. The owner really should be looking into this seriously on his/her own, without being prodded by the City. The other comment i made was about the business itself: since there is so much competition for liquor, and selling it to anyone under age 21 is illegal, the business owner could to remake the business, find out what those adjacent to you want most, and target that market. That would keep a business viable, save the City money, and serve those residing nearby.
CP Resident for a Long Time April 20, 2011 at 01:52 PM
This is absolutely ridiculous. We have these behemoth new high rise buildings appearing up and down Route 1, ridiculously close to the street, making Route 1 feel even more conjested and closed in than it already did, and you're worried about the tiny building that's been there for decades? And it's an "eyesore'? How about the dilapidated, boarded up restaurant that's next to Taco Bell? If CP wants green space, why don't they knock that down and plant some grass? Perhaps the city officials should take a walk up Route 1 between UMD and the beltway, and count the eyesores. And while they're at it, maybe they could come up with a solution for the RIDICULOUS traffic flow on that road. Downtown DC during a rainy rush hour moves better than Route 1.
Emil Farkwarp April 20, 2011 at 06:55 PM
Yah, because the UM crowd is the epitome of sobriety.
Emil Farkwarp April 20, 2011 at 06:57 PM
I'm with Rick-- make CP dry! Oh, you were being sarcastic? Oops!
Joe Smith April 20, 2011 at 07:04 PM
"Long-time CP resident" is right: how can the city justify using E.D. in this case, and not on properties like the "spooky house" on the corner of Edgewood Rd. and Route 1, the crumbling house/store at the corner of Fox and Rt. 1, and so on. These empty and dilapidated buildings make the city look way worse than the liquor store does.
Pamela Torro April 20, 2011 at 07:12 PM
I agreed with LTCPR and Joe Smith. We have already lost enough businesses up and down route 1. Remember Mandalay Bay that was forced to move for housing needs? I think that building is still there. Too many old dilapidated structures that should be torn down.
Terp April 21, 2011 at 06:33 PM
Mr. Wojahn & Mr. Catlin have an agenda that they are not revealing. They talk about greenspace and the appeal of rt. 1 yet they have approved 4 high density developments along rt.1. If they were so interested in the look & greenspace along rt. 1, why didn't they require the developers to incorporate greenspace into their developments? The Number 1 liquor store, has, at best, maybe 1/8 of an acre or around 5,000 square feet. If they are so concerned about cleaning up College Park, why don't they acquire the boarded up building next to Taco Bell(which has been vacant for over 10 years) or the Lasick/Hillcrest Hotel site. Both of these sites are terrible looking and would benefit the City much better as a park than acquiring the Number 1 liquor store. Think about it; why in the world would a state senator get involved in this small deal??? If the concern is underage drinking, why would they allow a 8,000 square foot Looney's Pub to go in the basement of the student housing building? Mr. Catlin & Mr. Wojahn; They don't speak for the people because the North College Park Citizen group doesn't want it to be closed. Then what is Mr. Catlin & Wojahn's motivation to remove it? I think Mr. Catlin & Wojahn need to answer what their real reason is that they are going after a small business who has done nothing wrong but try to make an honest living.
michele April 21, 2011 at 06:55 PM
The City of College Park is out of control . Eminent domain, acquiring ridiculous parkland (US 1 and Edgewood Road), neighborhood entrance signs, design manuals for residents to use to redesign their homes, increased tax rates, speed cameras and an unecessary downtown parking garage at the cost of a few million taxpayer dollars just to name a few of the "improvements" imposed by our elected leaders.
Patrick Wojahn April 21, 2011 at 09:48 PM
Just to be clear, the City hasn't voted to use eminent domain on this property yet. As I stated at this meeting, I haven't decided yet how I would vote. After hearing resident concerns, I'm leaning against it. The City is still attempting to negotiate an arms-length purchase agreement using state grant funds.
mj23 April 22, 2011 at 12:14 AM
The City may not have voted to use eminent domain YET; however, they also have not acted to stop moving forward with trying to purchase the property. I heard the owner had rejected the recent offer made my the City. It is time for the Mayor and Council to put this on a council agenda and vote to stop taking any action against this business. It is time to start listening to the residents.
Terp April 22, 2011 at 05:40 PM
"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." Mr. Wojahn, this is your quote. Did the City Council vote yet on the Looney's liquor license?What is your personal stance on them having a liquor license on the first floor of the Varsity student housing building which will have, close to 900 beds of mostly underage students for drinking purposes? If you have not voted yet, how will you vote when they come before the Council?
Dan Blasberg April 24, 2011 at 10:11 PM
This is just another case of the city being very unfriendly to local business. How long has the city ignored the zoning issue for the Berwyn business district, over 15 years now? Under the current zoning, a yoga studio can't even move in and because of the outstanding litigation over a 400 square foot chunk of dirt, the owner of some of the building can't build a parking lot so that there is sufficient parking for the business district. For all the complaining the city does about how UMD treats the city and doesn't support it, the city needs to look in the mirror when dealing with local businesses and business owners that have been a part of College Park for a long time. The other option for everyone is to find someone else to run against your council member if you don't like how they represent you, or in the case of Mr. Catlin, don't represent you. This is an election year, so for the elected officials that read this, what are you willing to do for me, the resident, to get my vote? DB
mj23 April 25, 2011 at 11:28 AM
Couldn't agree more -- it is time for the residents in District 2 (as well as a few others) to get new representation on the Council. Some of the current councilmembers have out stayed their welcome as they forgot how to represent the residents who live in their districts. Instead, they spend too much time on what "they" want.
mj23 May 23, 2011 at 07:40 PM
Tomorrow's council meeting will decide whether the acquisition of the #1 Liquor Store will be stopped or not. Hope everyone comes out to speak up so the the council will stop this process. Everyone is needed!!

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