By Andy Ross
Killeen Daily Herald
Last November, Killeen residents overwhelmingly approved a ballot referendum legalizing the sale of package liquor within city limits.
Since that time, more than a dozen prospective liquor store owners have submitted rezoning requests to the Killeen City Council for the establishment of B-3A alcohol sales districts.
Disagreement over whether such business represents economic progress or a growing social problem came to the forefront this week during public hearings before the Killeen City Council on the latest three requests.
The votes - two approved in a 4-3 decision and one denied in a 6-1 decision - offered a clear sign that some of Killeen's leaders are uncomfortable with the amount of interest in the booze business.
"My concern naturally is we start a trend of neighborhood liquor stores and these liquor stores are going to draw crime," said newly appointed District 4 Councilman Mike Lower.
District 3 Councilman Terry Clark also said he believed Killeen's market has been "saturated" with package stores.
"There is a reasonable level of saturation; and once again I'm going to state that we went from a community with no liquor stores, where there did not seem to be a shortage of liquor, to these package stores showing up all the time," Clark said.
Including those heard this week, a total of 13 rezoning requests for package stores have been submitted to the council since November. Of those, three have been denied. At least two stores have opened for business.
The first request heard Tuesday was for a prospective store at 311 E. Stan Schlueter Loop. No protests were submitted from surrounding business owners and the property met all spacing requirements among schools, churches or public hospitals, according to background reports.
Despite the planning and zoning commission's prior recommendation for approval, Lower's motion to deny the request was supported by Clark and Councilman Billy Workman. Councilmen Larry Cole, Scott Cosper, Juan Rivera and Kenny Wells voted Lower's motion down and subsequently supported a motion to approve.
The second rezoning request was made for a prospective package store at 102 E. Hallmark Ave. This location met all minimum spacing requirements; however, it did receive protests from surrounding business owners and was not given a green light from planning and zoning. Council members voted 6 to 1 - Cole was in the opposition - to disapprove the request, citing a concern with the site's proximity to a neighborhood.
The final hearing dealt with a request for a store at 4008 E. Stan Schlueter Loop. Although no protests were received and all spacing requirements were met, Workman, Clark and Lower again voted in opposition. They were later overruled by the remaining four councilmen.
In his comments, Cole said he felt some councilmen were overstepping their bounds.
"The citizens voted to allow this type of establishment," Cole said. "This falls within the law and I don't believe it's our place to determine if a market is saturated. The market will determine whether that business survives or not and whether it's needed in that location."
Rivera at one point voiced his frustration with some council members' reasoning for attempting to deny the Stan Schlueter request.
"It is a typical shopping center just like any other typical center," Rivera said. "If we start disapproving every liquor store in a center, we might as well disapprove every one in the city of Killeen. I don't know if we even take the time to go and look at it instead of just looking at a sheet of paper. I can't believe what we hear sometimes at this dais."
Mayor Tim Hancock said he believed the city's ordinance requiring the rezoning process might need revisions for clarity. The ordinance, which created the B-3A district (Local Business and Retail Alcohol Sales District), was approved by the council last December in the wake of voters legalizing liquor sales.
Contact Andy Ross at email@example.com or (254) 501-7468.