There’s a new twist in the continuing controversy over McGlades Bistro and Wine Bar.
The Spokane County Commission was asked by the state Liquor Control Board to give its support or objections to issuing another liquor license to the north Spokane County restaurant, currently at the center of a messy zoning dispute.
After meeting in executive session, the board voted unanimously to send a letter to the liquor control board that simply states the history of the zoning issues without taking a position.
“What the county should have said is, ‘Don’t issue them a liquor license,’ ” said Rich Eichstaedt, a lawyer with the public interest law firm Center for Justice. “I think this is more of a product of politics than following the law.”
While the issue seems to be about one business, Eichstaedt said he believes that the case is reflective of how county leaders will deal with future conflicts over land use.
“Unfortunately, with the way the county is acting, it seems like the only way this is going to get resolved is in the courtroom,” he said.
The controversy began after the building’s owners, Shawn and Theresa Gabel, purchased the fruit stand at 4301 E. Day Mt. Spokane Road and converted the business into a full-service restaurant.
The Gabels shut down the restaurant after county officials determined they could not operate that type of business in the urban reserve zone. But the commission voted 2-1 last year to change the zone to limited development area commercial, which allows the restaurant.
The Gabels have since sued the county, alleging it forced them out of business, and sold the business to Triple Charged LLC, which now leases the building. Nikki Goetz and her daughter, Summer, opened the business this fall and obtained a temporary liquor license.
Eichstaedt, who represents neighbors who didn’t want the zone change, appealed it to the state, and last month, the Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board ruled in the neighbors’ favor.
The board said Spokane County violated state growth laws by altering the zone at the rural site to allow the restaurant.
County attorneys have appealed that ruling to Spokane County Superior Court and have not initiated any steps to shut down McGlades, even though the restaurant is clearly operating under the incorrect zone, Eichstaedt said.
John Pederson, the county’s interim planning director, said neighbors have asked the county to enforce the zone but would not say when the county intends to act. He said since the case is under litigation he couldn’t comment.
Commissioner Todd Mielke said he believes the growth hearings board erred in their decision and therefore the business should be allowed to remain open pending the appeal.
“We believe the hearings board has overstepped its authority,” Mielke said. “We believe Spokane County has the authority to make zoning decisions.”
That leaves the county being sued by the Gabels on one side and neighbors on the other. In the meantime, the state Liquor Control Board has yet to decide how to proceed. The temporary liquor license expires at the end of the month.
Linda Brock, a liquor license investigator, could not be reached for comment about what that decision will be.
Commissioner Bonnie Mager, who voted against the zone change last year, said she voted with Mielke and Mark Richard to send the letter because it didn’t take a position.
The restaurant “is really an issue over whether or not the county will comply with the Growth Management Act,” she said. “I think everyone would agree the answer is no.”
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