PALMER TWP., Pa. - To applause from the audience, Palmer Township supervisors unanimously rejected a liquor license transfer request to Sheetz on 3501 Nazareth Road, also known as Route 248.
In their transfer denial Tuesday, supervisors cited a history of criminal complaints at the site dating back to its opening in 2014, as well as a seemingly uncooperative corporate attitude toward township concerns.
As Chairman David Colver put it, “Introducing this, I felt this was a problem when we already have a problem.”
Colver said he thought the liquor license would exacerbate existing health and safety issues to the neighborhood rather than increase traffic or speeding.
The application hearing was continued from an October meeting where residents vehemently opposed the liquor application, raising concerns over on-site drinking at an already dangerous section of Route 248.
The Oct. 24 meeting was held over for Sheetz attorney Mark Kozar to draft a memorandum containing legal support for the applicant’s case.
In the memo, Kozar wrote that Oct. 24 testimony regarding safety concerns was speculative, not factual, and couldn’t be held as a valid reason to deny the transfer request.
Palmer supervisors thought otherwise.
Supervisors cited the “Sheetz Call Breakdown by Year” provided by the Palmer Township Police Department, which detailed the history of police calls to the 3501 Nazareth Road location, in their decision to deny the transfer.
According to the breakdown, Sheetz has received 208 police calls since opening, remaining consistent around 50 per year.
Supervisors also said the cases Kozar cited, such as “Giant Food Stores LLC v. Penn Township,” did not compare to the current situation.
Selling alcohol at a grocery store is a different beast from selling at a gas station with seating, a history of loitering and police calls, Colver said.
Palmer Township has seen four liquor license transfers in last 10 years, including to Redner’s Warehouse Markets, Weiss Markets and Giant Food Stores. But Colver said grocery stores cannot compare because they don’t have a culture of late night loitering and drag racing.
Other supervisors echoed Colver’s concerns, worrying how the store could enforce a no drinking on premises policy when it did not respond to loitering and police calls.
Supervisor Jeffrey Young said he wanted to see Sheetz prove that it could solve its ongoing problems over a long period of time before he would be ready to consider approving the liquor license transfer.
“I want to see response, and I don’t see any,” agreed supervisor Ann-Marie Panella.
An intermunicipal liquor license transfer requires approval from the destination township. Based on the township’s decision, Sheetz could appeal to the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas.
The company would also have to apply to the PA Liquor Control Board—an unrelated process to Tuesday’s proceedings—if the appeal went through.
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