Precinct 2 scrambles to regulate alcohol sales

SMITH COUNTY (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Small town councils inside Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 scrambled to set ordinances to regulate beer and wine sales, but regulation in unincorporated areas of the jurisdiction will be limited.
When legalization of beer and wine sales was approved by city of Tyler and Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 voters on Nov. 6, interest grew in how ordinances can control business signage and alcohol sales' proximity to properties such as schools and churches.

Cities have more control than the county with regard to setting policies and ordinances, including building requirements and signage.

In unincorporated areas of the county, however, the county has limited control and is directed by state law. Unincorporated areas of the county include townships such as Flint, Gresham and Dogwood City (north of Coffee City on Texas Highway 155) whose limited control over signs and structures is directed by county ordinances.

In February 2010, the Smith County Commissioners Court approved its alcohol ordinances as Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 voters considered beer and wine sales. Voters downed the proposals, but the ordinances are still on the books for unincorporated areas.

The court approved prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages within 300 feet of churches, public or private schools and public hospitals. Day care centers also are covered under the provision. Schools within the unincorporated areas may expand distance requirements to 1,000 feet by opting into the county's Subdivision Regulations by request.

The restrictions also prohibit sales within 300 feet of residential areas. Residential areas, however, are limited to platted subdivisions, meaning a business could build a beer barn next to a single standing home.

Restrictions on structures and signage will be limited to the county's regulation on commercial buildings and signs.

The court also approved time restrictions on hours of operation for establishments.

Wine and beer retailers are allowed to sell alcohol between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 10 a.m. (at earliest for businesses serving food) or noon to midnight on Sundays, depending on the permit.

The ordinances also prohibit loitering outside of establishments and consumption of alcohol on premises where alcohol is sold for off-premise consumption.

Violations of the ordinances will be subject to a $500 fine for each day of non-compliance. Injunctive powers also are provided for the court regarding violations.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Jeff Warr, whose precinct includes much of the unincorporated areas of JP Precinct 2, said he has been in contact with officials in Bullard and Noonday but that residents in other parts of the county have been quiet. Warr said there is little the county can do to regulate businesses but that conversations with professionals and officials around the state indicate the likelihood that beer and wine sales will be limited to existing businesses based on the business model.

"Liquor stores can stand alone but when it's just beer and wine there's just not enough sales volume to justify entering the market as a beer and wine store," he said. Beer and wine sales "will certainly have some impact on the communities but hopefully any concerns can be addressed."

Bullard City Manager Larry Morgan said the city continues to work on its ordinances but plan on approving them by Dec. 11. He said the city is fashioning its ordinances after other cities, including Tyler, with regard to signage and whether to allow drive-thru beer and wine sales.

The city of Tyler recently approved ordinances, which will regulate signage and distances from churches and schools.

Morgan said there has not been a public outcry since beer and wine were legalized.

"Surprisingly, I haven't heard a word," he said. "We are going to make sure all those issues (such as drive-thru sales) will be addressed."


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