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.

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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