MOORESTOWN, NJ — Moorestown Council unanimously approved a proposal to issue and regulate plenary retail licenses as some residents continued to object to the idea of bringing liquor stores into the township Monday night.
“This is more important than what can be decided by five members of a council,” resident Roger Boyell said during the public comment portion of Monday night’s meeting. “I ask you to put this to a vote for another referendum.”
The first referendum took place in 2011, and involved two questions. By approving Question 1, voters elected to open the township—dry since the early part of the 20th century—to liquor licenses.
And by approving Question 2, they voted to limit the use of those licenses to restaurants at the mall. Read more here: ‘Yes’ Wins: Moorestown Liquor Referendum Passes
With the approval of Question 2, those restrictions were embedded into the township code, Boyell argued. Overturning that code can’t be done by the township’s governing body, he said.
Township Solicitor Kevin Aberant said the township council did have the right to adopt the proposal because of a lawsuit filed by East Gate Square shortly after the special vote in 2011. Read more here: 10 Years After Historic Vote, Moorestown May See Liquor Stores
“Judge Bookbinder invalidated the second question in its entirety,” Aberrant said. “Council is not prohibited from adopting this ordinance. Council has the right to change the code.”
He added that a future governing body would have the right to overturn the decision made Monday night, although anyone awarded a liquor license in between would be grandfathered in in that scenario.
The proposal allows the township to issue two or three retail liquor licenses, based on the outcome of the 2020 Census. They would be limited to the mall, the Kmart Shopping Center, Moorestown Commons, and the business park.
Any liquor store built in Moorestown would have to be 200 feet from a home or a school, and they are explicitly banned from being built on Main Street and Lenola Road. Read more here: Liquor Stores, Microbreweries Under Discussion For Moorestown
Resident Kathy Sutherland supported the township’s efforts to make progress, but said it should honor the will of the people who voted in 2011. She disagreed with a plan to allow them on parts of North Church Street that are away from residential areas.
“It should be kept to the mall as intended,” Sutherland said. “It was never intended for this part of town. I’m sorry I voted for this referendum. There are other things that could’ve been built in the township over the years, and people didn’t want it because they didn’t want it in their backyard, but there’s no problem when it comes to this. We voted for this, and allowed the township to bring it in to generate revenue for certain areas.”
Council members and some members of the public argued that bringing liquor stores to the township would help alleviate the burden on taxpayers at a time when many are struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“There are two liquor stores in Mount Laurel that are feet from the border with Moorestown,” said Mark Hines, chair of the Economic Development Advisory Council (EDAC), which conducted a study of the issue. “Consumption is unlikely to increase. We don’t believe there would be an increase in the perceived problems that come with it.”
Resident Kate Wilson said that while people might not like alcohol, it is involved in just about every fundraiser and community event there is. The alcohol typically comes from other towns, and Moorestown is watching money pour into those towns.
“There’s a lot of dead commercial space in Moorestown, and we can’t have that,” Mayor Nicole Gillespie said. “I don’t know if things will ever go back to business as usual, but we have to be creative about what businesses we have and we’re trying to attract.”