Andover council denies Walmart liquor store

The Andover City Council will not let Walmart have a liquor store.

Walmart legal representative Richard Snyder of the Fredrikson & Byron law firm in Minneapolis sent a three-page letter dated Oct. 8 to the city to state that Walmart met all city code criteria to have a liquor store as a separate part of its super store. Photo by Eric Hagen

Walmart legal representative Richard Snyder of the Fredrikson & Byron law firm in Minneapolis sent a three-page letter dated Oct. 8 to the city to state that Walmart met all city code criteria to have a liquor store as a separate part of its super store. Photo by Eric Hagen

The unanimous decision came from the council at Tuesday night’s meeting (Oct. 16).

Walmart submitted an application for a conditional use permit (CUP) for an off-sale intoxicating liquor license in order to sell beer, wine and hard liquor in a 1,328 square-foot store that would have been attached to an approximately 150,000 square-foot building on the former Pov’s Sports Bar site at 1851 Bunker Lake Blvd. N.W.

The council did approve a preliminary plat for Walmart to build its 150,000 square-foot store at its Aug. 21 meeting, so the liquor store discussion was a completely separate issue.

Two paragraphs within the council’s resolution of denial stated that the city code portion pertaining to off-sale intoxicating liquor licenses state that these may only be issued to “exclusive” liquor stores.

The liquor store would have entrances to the parking lot and through the grocery vestibule of the store, but the liquor store would be separate from the other retail in accordance with Minnesota state law, according to Walmart legal representative Richard Snyder of Fredrikson & Byron in Minneapolis.

“It is an exclusive liquor store under the code,” Snyder said.

Mayor Mike Gamache responded that they have disagreement on that.

Councilmember Julie Trude said the vestibule inside the store by the grocery store and liquor store does not make the liquor store an exclusive use.

Andover is a young community, she said.

“Almost anybody pushing a grocery cart in any kind of store in this community is going to have children with them,” Trude said.

Another issue the council raised was that this would have been the fifth and final off-sale liquor store for the city unless about 5,500 more people move to the community or Andover changes its city code.

Current city law allows one off-sale liquor store for every 6,000 people. Andover’s 2010 population was 30,598 people so there are just enough to have a fifth store.

Trude said back at the Aug. 21 council meeting that residents she heard from said that Andover had enough off-sale liquor stores.

Councilmember Tony Howard said there are other areas of the community that could get this fifth liquor store once the area grows.

The council’s resolution for denial stated that “goal five” of the land use goals, objectives and policies of the city’s comprehensive plan “is to encourage appropriate economic growth and redevelopment by developing a diversified tax base through balanced development of commercial, light industrial and residential properties and to select strategic locations for neighborhood and community commercial sites.”

Some opponents have pointed out that Northgate Liquors is not that far away.

Snyder wrote in an Oct. 8 letter to the city that the off-sale liquor application and the CUP meet all city code criteria and should therefore be approved.

“The Andover city code contains no provision requiring geographic distribution of off-sale liquor stores,” Snyder wrote. “The fact that the city might prefer that a store be located elsewhere is irrelevant.”

Trude had attempted to draft findings of fact to deny the liquor store CUP back at the Aug. 21 meeting after the council had approved the preliminary plat for the 150,000 square-foot store itself as well as a CUP for outdoor storage.

However, Walmart representatives asked the council to take more time to make a decision. It granted the city a 60-day extension on a deadline to act on the CUP that would have expired Aug. 23. The council thus tabled any vote on the CUP that evening.

The Andover Planning and Zoning Commission on a 5-2 vote approved the off-sale liquor CUP at its Aug. 14 meeting. Approval of the CUP would have just given Walmart permission to apply for the annual off-sale liquor license, which costs $200. The council would still have the final decision on the liquor license, which came Tuesday night.

Commissioners who opposed the CUP cited safety concerns with a school and ball fields nearby, and concern over there being too many liquor stores in Andover. Those who supported it said there had to be more specific reasons for denial and that Walmart met the city code requirements.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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