Coalport MinitMart

Coalport Borough Council denied Nittany Oil Co.’s request to transfer a liquor license from Lawrence Township to allow it to sell beer at its local store following a public hearing Sept. 9. Following the company’s appeal, Clearfield County Court has directed the borough to provide facts behind its denial.

COALPORT — Coalport Borough Council received an update on the status of a complaint filed against the borough by the owner of the local convenience store.

At Friday’s meeting, borough Secretary Noelle Trent reported a letter was received from former solicitor Ryan Sayers, outlining the outcome of a status conference held at the Clearfield County Court of Common Pleas in mid-December.

In October, Nittany Oil Co. of State College, owner of the local Minit Mart convenience store, filed a civil action complaint against the borough in the Clearfield County Court of Common Pleas.

The appeal was filed following a decision made by council at its Sept. 9 meeting to deny the company’s request to transfer a liquor license into the borough that would allow the store located at 1135 Main St. to sell liquor.

The document notes the borough received a written request from Nittany, dated Aug. 9, asking council to schedule a public hearing on the company’s petition to transfer the license. As part of its monthly business meeting Sept. 9, council held a properly advertised public meeting regarding the company’s request, the complaint states.

The complaint notes the company’s legal counsel, Attorney Mark Kozar of Flaherty & O’Hara Professional Corporation, Pittsburgh, and its Operations Manager Emerson Reams, attended the Sept. 9 hearing and addressed council, borough business owners and residents, regarding the company’s plans to sell beer and wine at the store and expand the facility to add seating for up to 30 people so that it would meet state requirements.

Information presented at the hearing noted if Nittany could acquire the license, the store’s expansion would include a beer cave that would be open from 7 a.m. to 1:45 a.m. daily.

At the Sept. 9 hearing, 10 business owners and residents spoke, asking council to deny the request. Their reasons included the expanded store would take sales away from existing borough businesses who are already selling liquor, the close proximity of the store to both the Coalport United Methodist Church and the Assembly of God Church, and their belief an additional source of liquor sales could add to the existing problems with vandalism and loitering in close proximity to the store.

Several council members said following council’s vote that they voted no to the liquor license transfer request because they wanted to support both local businesses who are already licensed establishments and address resident’s concerns.

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Nittany’s petition states council failed to issue a written resolution denying Nittany’s request as required by the state’s liquor code, and failed to set forth findings of fact for the denial.

“Consequently, Nittany is unable to identify specific reasons the borough denied Nittany’s request for the intermunicipal transfer of the license and accordingly Nittany is unable to set forth the specific grounds upon which the borough erred,” it notes.

It asks the court to determine whether council’s decision was in accordance with the law and whether the company’s rights were violated, and requests its appeal be granted.

Trent said the letter from Sayers states council needs to amend the written resolution council unanimously approved and sent to Nittany following a special meeting held Oct. 14.

The resolution notes council has the power to maintain protection of the borough’s residents and states reasons why council is against the transfer of the license.

Complaints include: the proposed building is located less than 300 feet from a lawful church which is a violation of the law; the proposed structure would be detrimental to the welfare, health, peace and morals of the neighborhood inhabitants; liquor is not permitted to be sold in a location where liquid fuels are sold; the drawings submitted do not specify the project is in compliance with the borough’s 100-year flood plan; and the project appears to be an encroachment in the flood protection plan for Clearfield Creek and Blain Run in the borough.

Other reasons noted in the resolution are Coalport already has a disproportionate amount of liquor licenses within a mile for the 497 residents noted in the 2010 census; complaints from residents concerning a possible increase in the volume of misbehavior in conjunction with the store’s hours; and Nittany improperly addressed a non-joinder of the borough in correspondence to the borough naming a not current secretary in its letter.

Sayers’ letter said the court requests council provide a finding of facts to support its decision. It has 60 days to provide the additional information.

Council is without a solicitor after Sayers was elected Clearfield County District Attorney in the November General Election. The borough is currently seeking a solicitor.