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Category: #1 Liquor

City Eyes Acquiring Four Houses on 50th Place, Then Backs Off

Houses on 50th Place - 'Not for sale!'

The City was considering acquiring four properties on 50th place (map below) across Duvall Field, according to the documents published on City’s website.

However, opposition against the plan forced the City to back off from having  such acquisitions. The City staff instead recommended to spend the the related funds on other Duvall Field or Hollywood Gateway Park related projects.

It seems a while ago staff looked into the idea just to see what options were available. Staff were told by the owners there was no interest to sell and backed away at that point.” – says council member Afzali (Dist. 4)

The purchase would allow the City to expand Duvall Field’s existing boundaries towards east.

Each year the City of College Park receives an allocation of Program Open Space (POS) funds. The funds are generated from the real estate transfer tax and are proportionately distributed to the counties. The City has opted to administer its own program and is required to submit proposed projects through the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) for approval prior to seeking approval from the State.

The City of College Park has been informed that its Program Open Space (POS) allocation for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 is $174,774. Applications for acquisition and/or development projects must be submitted to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) by June 17, 2011. Eligible projects will be forwarded by M-NCPPC to the state for approval.

The City document says currently the City has allocated funds to two development projects: Duvall Field ($954,925) and Hollywood Gateway Park ($59,024).

A cost estimate of $520,000 has been prepared for the first phase of Duvall Field’s comprehensive renovation which involves the construction of a new concession building and storage area, with Americans with Disabilities Act compatible restroom facilities.

The City’s available budget for acquisition is $576,598. These funds had previously been set aside for acquisition of #1 Liquor (8200 Baltimore Avenue) and were pending approval by the Board of Public Works. Acquisition projects do not require a local match.

The City has several options for expenditure of its FY 12 POS allocation of $174,774. The City can put the entire amount toward acquisition, put the entire amount toward development for either Hollywood Gateway Park or for Duvall Field or allocate funding between these two projects in some combination or divide the funds between acquisition and the two development projects in various ways.

City Staff recommended taking advantage of the opportunity to allocate 100% of the FY12 POS allocation to development; allocating $86,475 to Hollywood Gateway Park based on available matching funds and the balance to Duvall Field ($88,299) in anticipation of receiving developer contribution matching funds.

Council member Nagle wants no funds be allocated in the Hollywood Gateway project. “It’s a total waste” – she says.

The City council will debate the allocation of the POS funds in tomorrow night’s council meeting.

Was Eminent Domain a Factor in City’s U-Turn on #1 Liquor?

Residents at #1 Liquor discussion

As we predicted earlier, in last week’s council meeting, the City council finally put a stop to the acquisition of #1 Liquor business on Route 1, reversing its own 2009 decision.

The political drama surrounding the council decision leaves one wondering what happened over the past two years that  has led to this U-turn decision.

The interesting part of the unfolding of this event is that at least two council members who reversed their earlier 2009 opinion had to scramble to give a good reason for their reversing decision. Facing a November re-election challenge, they kept their explanation saying that opposition from their constituents was the main reason.

I think the 2009 council, led by then Mayor Brayman went for an ambitious or even a rather extreme  goal in their resolution by using the eminent domain option. “Use all actions necessary to proceed with condemnation” – the resolution asked the City.

They could have kept the resolution language at the “arm – length” negotiation level only.

The eminent domain option was included in 2009 resolution as a last ditch option, in case the negotiation with the owner fails; yet it gave its opponents several ammunitions to convince other residents on this subject.

Many residents took this option as a rather forceful one, especially when the option was targeted to a privately owned city business. To these residents, the city was going after a legitimate business wanting to shut it down. As one resident said: “let’s keep #1 Liquor in business“.

Loss of tax from the business was also an important factor to some, even though the yearly amount the City receives from the business is no more than $1200. Also, this tax factor was a moot point since it was quite possible that the business could be relocated somewhere in the city.

I think without the mention of eminent domain option in its 2009 resolution, the council had a better chance in keeping the negotiation going with #1 Liquor. In the mean time, the City will probably have to lose State’s Open Space Fund and let another town to make its good use.

Council May Make a U-Turn on #1 Liquor Purchase

#1 Liquor

With council election only a few months away, and an increasing number of residents are voicing their oppositions, the City Council may soon vote on a motion that will permanently put a stop to the negotiation to purchase #1 Liquor property on Route 1.

The small parcel of property (8200 Baltimore Avenue) is sandwiched in between two recently built enormous high rises: the University View and the Varsity.

In December 2009, the City Council authorized the City Manager to negotiate the acquisition of  the property and turn this into a park for general public use.

City Council members who supported the motion in 2009, argued that the property was “an eyesore” for a long time. They also said that the purchase would be an opportunity “to improve that portion of Route 1 corridor“.

The 2009 resolution allows the City to pursue the acquisition using all “actions necessary to proceed with condemnation if negotiations are not successful.” This points to an option called “eminent domain” or compulsory purchase by the a local or federal government.

However, opposition to the eminent domain option from the residents in recent days have forced some council members to soften or even reverse their support for this extreme option.

One of these council members is Patrick Wojahn (Dist 1), who has come under a fierce opposition from a small but vocal group of residents in his north College Park constituency.

I was on the fence initially about eminent domain, and after hearing what residents have had to say, I oppose it.” -wrote Mr. Wojahn in an email to his north College Park newsgroup.

However, Mr. Wojahn’s reversal on eminent domain option did not completely please the group of residents; they want the Council to stop negotiation with the #1 Liquor owner altogether.

The City should stop going after this particular business.  You [Mr. Wojahn] and Mr. Catlin keep saying the City should continue because the owner is still willing to negotiate [to sell]” – charged one resident.

I have not seen anyone on the council move to amend this item be removed” – continued the resident.

During the recent budget worksession, this topic was brought up and the City Manager (Mr. Nagro) said the only way to stop the negotiation would be for the Mayor and Council to do another vote to “unauthorize” it.

Mr. Wojahn’s counterpart in District 1, Councilmember Nagle, who has been a vocal opponent to the #1 Liquor purchase from the beginning,  has recently done just that. She has asked the City to unauthorize the City Manager from pursuing any further negotiations to obtain the property (arms-length or otherwise). The Council will vote on that motion in next Tuesday’s (May 24) regular council session.

In the mean time, the debate on the property deal is intensifying.

Most opponents to the idea of acquiring the property argue that “uglinesss” should never be the reason for purchasing the property.

.. if you want to get rid of it, why don’t you get rid of town hall or that vacant building that is an eyesore between Burger King and Taco Bell (on Rt. 1).” – said one long time residents.

If we are looking to make the city look good, there is nothing on US 1 in my opinion from the IKEA corridor on down except the University of Maryland that looks attractive to anyone wanting to relocate to the city.” – continued the resident.

Council member Robert Catlin (Dist 2), who sponsored the 2009 motion disagrees. Catlin thinks location, and not the look, should be a major factor why the City should buy the property.

(The location of the property) is great because of the large population that will be living or passing through there.  It can be a place for people to buy food from the adjacent food establishments and enjoy eating outside or interact with people (like Dupont Circle). ” – said Mr. Catlin.

In addition to location, Mr. Catlin argues that  the property would make for a good bus superstop location, as it the southernmost point that southbound buses can stop to pick up passengers.

Mr. Catlin also points out that  the current business owner is not the same business owner that was there when University View was built.

The current liquor store owner is free to lease space elsewhere in College Park. ” – he argued.

In response to argument that the City will be losing precious tax dollars from a legitimate business, Mr Catlin said: “The $1,500 in revenue derived from the store is insignificant in the city’s budget, especially when considering that the redevelopment here generates hundreds of times more revenue than was generated here before redevelopment.

What could we buy, only church property?” – asks Mr. Catlin.

Some residents want the City to spend the fund to purchase the property in the Design and Rehabilitation of Duvall Field project in north College Park. The City originally received $300K as part of State’s Program Open Space (POS) fund, however it could not use the money due to a related fund from a Greenbelt south core development project.

Others have different ideas on how the fund should be spent,

Program Open Space (POS) is neither a highway beautification fund nor a blight reduction tool. A fraction of an acre park on the #1 Liquor site will not meet the city’s conservation or public recreation goals, especially in light of the fact that North Gate Park (another POS project) is about to open just to the south.” – said the ReThinkCollegePark editor David Daddio.

Daddio thinks the North Gate Park parcel would make an excellent location for a bus super stop for the emerging North Gate District.

Indeed POS funds could be used for the purchase; but let’s not pretend that there is a park deficit in the city.” – said Daddio.

Though it is unclear at this moment how the Council will vote next week, an intense lobbying by the opposing residents may likely to sway the minds of the council members. If there is a tie, Mayor Fellows will cast his vote to break the tie. Mr. Fellows who supported the original 2009 motion is also undecided.

We have not established what that cost to the City might be.  I do understand the concerns of a significant number of residents, and they are a factor in my consideration. ” – said Mr. Fellows.

In the mean time, opponents to the purchase plan are hoping that the upcoming November election could swing  the Council decision next week. As one resident has put it:

Anyone who [still] backs [the purchase], it will be noted when it’s election time and will be  noted in distributed documents, websites and listserves.

NCP Residents Ask City to Remove Acquisition of #1 Liquor from Budget

#1 Liquor at Route 1

Steve Groh and Terry Schum presented the proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to the North College Park Citizens Association on Thursday night on behalf of the City Manager.

The NCPCA voted unanimously to ask the Council to remove the acquisition of #1 Liquor at 8200 Baltimore Avenue from the CIP.  “Members did not feel that this commercial
property would well serve the City’s open space needs.”
– wrote NCPCA president Mark Shroder in an email to the Mayor and the Council.

True the store is an eyesore, but that should not be a good reason to spend money” – said Larry Bleau, who brought the motion in the meeting.

Back in late 2009, the City council voted to try to buy the property or to try to get it condemned if its owner refuses to sell. The City plans to build a small park at the location.

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