A liquor license requires a location in a proper zoning district.
An August 22, 2017 decision by the Howard County, Maryland Board of Appeals Hearing Examiner is both a detailed exposition of a liquor store as a permitted use under the zoning regulations and a wonderful treatise on the broader topic of land use law in that suburban Maryland county.
But this decision is much larger than this Howard County case alone. Today in commercial real estate, alcoholic beverage licensed businesses are increasingly more valuable because they are largely free from the downturn that most retail is seeing as a result of the Internet and online shopping. In most places alcoholic beverages cannot be bought online and shipped. And restaurants with food costs supported by alcoholic beverages are increasing in dramatic numbers.
This Howard County appeal was about an application by the property owner Science Fiction, LLC to the Planning Board to “clarify a liquor store does not have to be contained within the full service food and grocery store to be a permitted use.”
The prior existing regulation included as a permitted use, “l. full service food and grocery stores, and related uses, of 100,000 square feet or more.” The Planning Board’s counsel repeatedly told the Board, the issue was whether a liquor store use is compatible with a grocery store. Science Fiction also asked the Hearing Examiner “to consider [the FDP amendment application] as a zoning matter, not a liquor licensing matter.”
The 39 page decision is a great read beach weekend read for zoning geeks as it reveals the history of zoning, from the first 1916 New York City ordinance to the inapplicability of Euclidean principals in the James Rouse’s planned community of Columbia within Howard County where this liquor store was proposed.
But the liquor license industrial complex will delight in the portion of the decision discounting economic competition as a valid objection,
To the extent the Planning Board considered economic competition in its November 4, 2016 denial, meaning the impact of the proposed FDP amendment on other liquor stores, the Board’s action was arbitrary and capricious. Kreatchman v. Ramsburg, et al., 224 Md. 209, 219-220, 167 A.2d 345 (1961) (holding a liquor store owner in the Normandy Heights shopping center whose sole reason for objecting to a Zoning Board action was prevention of competition from a proposed shopping center further west on US 40 was not aggrieved when “[h]is only concern is with the threat of competition from a possible package liquor store in the [other] shopping center. It is to protect himself against that possible competition that he seeks the protection of the zoning regulations.”) Appellant Exhibit 6 is a Hearing Examiner decision and order addressing the inapplicability of economic competition considerations in zoning actions.
Appropriate zoning is required for all uses, not only alcoholic beverage related uses. The application of Science Fiction was approved, adding new subsection “.m” to the § 7D Permitted Uses text criteria, in the New Town zoning district,
m. Liquor store – located on the full service food and grocery store property and partitioned from the full service food and grocery store building. The liquor store has an independent entrance for deliveries and customers. “Partitioned” means walls or other physical divisions separating the full service food and grocery store and liquor store uses.
With zoning in place, an application may now be made to the liquor board for this liquor store adjacent to a Wegmans grocery store.