By CHRIS AGEE
According to a letter sent to city officials in January, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is joining several local entities in their protest against an applicant for a package store permit.
The local protest began last September when city council members voted to table a specific use permit for a prospective package store location at 700 S.E. 6th Ave., citing complaints by nearby churches and school officials.
About a week later, the MWISD board signed a letter requesting a larger buffer between the retailer and nearby Travis Elementary School.
The TABC letter explained the commission's Field Operations Division conducted an investigation into the complaints and its Legal Services Division conducted a subsequent review.
The letter, which was addressed to the applicant, stated, "it has been determined that the Commission will join in the protest against your original application" for the S.E. 6th Avenue location.
TABC further informed the applicant, Jef Stricklen, the commission would file a formal action with County Judge David Nicklas to deny the application. A formal hearing will be scheduled by Nicklas, the letter indicates, and both the applicant and protesters will be allowed to speak on the matter.
Though the proposed location would fall within the parameters set forth in city ordinance, which includes a 300-foot buffer between package stores and churches, public schools, public hospitals, day care or childcare facilities, school board members wanted to see that distance increased to 1,000 feet.
The increased distance is important, the letter stated, "for the actual and perceived safety of the children of Mineral Wells ISD."
During a public hearing at a subsequent council meeting, an attorney for the package store applicant presented his case for approving the specific use permit, saying the city has no choice since the location falls within the city's code. He also suggested failure to do so could result in legal action against the city.
At the same meeting, several residents spoke against the measure, including members of Calvary Baptist Church who said the church's playground is far too close to the proposed liquor store.
Ultimately, the six council members present at that meeting were deadlocked in a vote to approve the permit with the caveat that council will oppose the final permit at the TABC level.
The issue was addressed by the council most recently at a meeting last November, during which council voted to remove the requirement for package store applicants to obtain a specific use permit.
City Manager Lance Howerton told the council such permits are not necessary, adding City Attorney George Gault recommended removing the requirement.