CPHA Recap: October 3rd Alcohol Outlet Density Reduction Hearing

CPHA has repeatedly stressed the importance of last Thursday’s Land Use and Transportation Committee hearing on Alcohol Outlet Density Reduction held at the Towanda Community Center in Park Heights.

An estimated 250 residents attended to hear testimony from a variety of city officials; a panel led by Park Height Renaissance and CPHA; a broad swathe of residents concerned about the impact of alcohol outlets on the fabric of their communities; and store owners concerned about the impact of proposed changes in the zoning code upon their livelihood. At the beginning of the hearing, Councilman Reisinger noted that the turnout was by far the largest of any of the zoning hearings. A host of City representatives then made the case for why the Committee should pass this portion of the legislation without amendment to weaken it.

Representatives from the Baltimore City Health Department, including Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Oxiris Barbot, presented evidence supported by the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control linking alcohol outlets to shorter life expectancy and neighborhood violence. Dr. Barbot noted that the legislation is aimed “not at picking winners or losers,” but rather at building a Baltimore that “reaches it’s full health potential.” George Nilson, the Baltimore Solicitor General, assured the Committee that his office had reviewed the proposed zoning changes and concluded they were lawful.

A retired Major of the Baltimore City Police Department speaking on behalf of his neighborhood association offered testimony that throughout his career, “no other type of establishment caused me as much constant concern as alcohol establishments.”

One Park Heights resident noted that her efforts to buy goods from local store owners is hampered by the sheer volume of alcohol outlets. “I try to purchase items in my area, but I can’t. All I have is liquor stores.”

Store owners offered counter testimony, asking the Committee to focus on “bad apples” rather than zoning out all of the city’s 105 non-conforming alcohol outlets. The Baltimore Sun ran a piece profiling one such store owner, Jay Chung of the Charles Village Schnapps Shop. CPHA has frequently noted that this reasoning does not get to the heart of the legislation at hand. Zoning is not about good and bad establishments, but about how we use our land. In this case, the proposed portion of the zoning legislation is about reducing the total number of outlets in the City and removing those that are inappropriately operating on residential streets at the expense of our neighborhoods.

CPHA made clear to the City Council that the BLLC does indeed need fixing, but that this zoning legislation is also desperately needed to improve community health.  While we understand  that individual store-owners will be affected by the proposed zoning, we request the City Council prioritize the health and well-being of the community at large as we simultaneously develop a “roadmap” to help some of these businesses successfully convert and thrive in a manner that contributes to a healthier and safer future for our communities.

CPHA and several community residents also reminded our City Council that this portion of the legislation is supported without amendment by the vast majority of Baltimore constituents and discussed some of the concerns we have heard most frequently.

We look forward to discussing alocohol outlet density reduction further with the Council and will continue to provide citizens with updates in the weeks to come.

The next zoning hearing will be held:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013 5:15 PM
Topic: Commercial Districts; Special Purpose Districts.
Land Use and Transportation Committee
University of Maryland, Baltimore BioPark, 801 W. Baltimore Street

For a summary of all upcoming zoning hearings, click here.

CPHA has also examined the importance of offering oral or written testimony at public hearings, which could be a helpful tool for Baltimore residents who want to be engaged as this process unfolds.

To maintain current with changes and updates to City Council public hearings, please monitor their calendar by clicking here.

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Christopher Yeazel

Christopher Yeazel

This article was written by Chris Yeazel and edited by Michael Snidal. Click here to meet our writing team.
Christopher Yeazel

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