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‘Fairness’ urged by mayor for rash of liquor store proposals

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Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 12:00 pm

By Andy Ross

Killeen Daily Herald

Killeen's approach to newly-legalized package liquor stores once again had the full attention of the City Council this week.

In a lengthy workshop discussion Tuesday night, council members heard legal advice on regulation options for alcohol-based businesses and attempted to hash out differing perspectives on where such a market fits into the city's future.

The discussion, which did not result in any action, came one week after a series of public hearings for package store rezoning requests exposed deep concerns over the issue from some of Killeen's leaders.

Mayor Tim Hancock on Tuesday initiated the agenda item, urging the council to handle each case of a prospective package store with fairness.

When you sit on this council or any committee, you have to leave your personal feelings at home," Hancock said. "I think it is not fair to say we have too many liquor stores in the city of Killeen. How many is too many? How many is not enough?"

The mayor's comments were largely directed at the sentiment expressed last week that the city's market is becoming "saturated" with liquor stores. Since voters in November legalized the sale of liquor inside the city limits, a total of 13 package store rezoning requests have come before the city. Three of those requests have been denied.

During the hearings for the latest three requests last week, Councilmen Terry Clark, Mike Lower and Billy Workman all voted no in each instance, saying they felt liquor businesses would attract crime and contribute to neighborhood decline. Despite their opposition, two of the requests were approved. The other request failed, with Councilman Larry Cole being the sole vote of support.

Last week, and again on Tuesday, Hancock raised questions about the ordinance that requires those interested in opening package stores to rezone their property into a B-3A alcohol sales district. The ordinance was enacted by the council in December. The mayor said he wanted to make sure there was no ambiguity in the ordinance.

"Anyone who wants to do business in this city should be given the opportunity to get all the information they need to make a sound business decision before entering into something they may not be allowed to do," Hancock said.

City Attorney Kathy Davis explained to the council that the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Code limits municipalities' ability to regulate liquor stores. Killeen, she said, has already taken steps toward regulation through the B-3A ordinance, which spells out additional spacing and construction requirements in addition to those mandated by the state.

"We are very limited in what we are allowed to do, and I do believe our ordinance as written is already as strict as it is allowed to be according to state law," Davis said.

Cole emphasized he does not think it is the council's place to determine the saturation point for the liquor business. Cole went on to state he still disagrees with last week's decision to deny the rezoning request for a store at the corner of Hallmark and Second Street.

"I believe he was unfairly prevented from running his business," Cole said.

Workman later indicated he was sticking with his cautious approach to future liquor store requests.

"We are not all wrong and we are not all right, but we still have to look out for the health and safety of the citizens whether our fellow council members like it or not," Workman said.

The discussion concluded with Davis urging the council to continue considering each rezoning case based on its particular merits.

Contact Andy Ross at aross@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7468.

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