Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

April 10, 2013

Contested package store subject of court hearing


Mineral Wells Index

— By CHRIS AGEE



A formal hearing Tuesday in the courtroom of Palo Pinto County Judge David Nicklas brought together supporters and opponents of a proposed package store location at 700 S.E. 6th Street.

Nicklas explained he has not yet made a decision in the case, adding he plans to use at least a portion of the 60 days he is allowed to consider his ruling.

"There are too many facts and things to make a snap judgment," he told the Index.

A local protest began last year following a Mineral Wells City Council vote to table a specific use permit for applicant Jeff Stricklen.

Citing complaints by nearby churches and school officials, city leaders wanted to allow more time for individuals to express their views on the issue. Protests centered around the prospective store's proximity to both Travis Elementary School and Calvary Baptist Church.

"We joined Calvary Baptist Church in thinking this would not be the best place for a package store," said MWID Supt. Dr. Gail Haterius.

The MWISD board signed a letter to the city requesting a larger buffer between the retailer and the nearby school:

"These are the kids that are very impressionable and can sometimes make ill-advised choices. There could be someone there who is drunk and they wouldn't recognize it."

Earlier this year, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission joined locals in their protest against Stricklen's application.

In a letter, the TABC explained the commission's Field Operations Division conducted an investigation into the complaints followed by a subsequent review by its Legal Services Division.

The commission informed Stricklen it would file a formal action with Nicklas to deny the application and alerted him to Tuesday's hearing.

Mineral Wells Mayor Mike Allen was among those present to speak during Tuesday's meeting and he told the Index his intent was to share the will of this community.

"I just made a statement about what had happened in three city council meetings and the outcome of the vote," he said. "We had to approve the specific-use permit, but we instructed the staff to protest vigorously."

He said many citizens attended city council hearings during which they shared concerns about the proposed location of the business, adding he brought up those instances in his statement.

"I just finished up by saying there was a large number of people in council chambers against [the store] and the council believed that the citizens of Mineral Wells were against having it there."

In addition to himself and Haterius, Allen said a number of other individuals opposed the store's proposed location during the hearing, including Mineral Wells Police Chief Dean Sullivan, City Attorney Geroge Gault, TABC officials, and two parishioners of Calvary Baptist Church.

"They say there is a time and place for everything," he said, "but I do not believe the citizens of Mineral Wells believe this is the time or place, now, for this."

Although the store's proposed location would fall within the parameters included in city ordinance – a 300-foot buffer between a package store and any church, public school, public hospital, day care or childcare facilities – school board members requested an increased 1,000-foot buffer.

Nicklas said the next step is his, adding he will review the court reporter's transcript "to make sure everything I think I heard is based on the law and facts presented today."

As of the Index's deadline, neither Stricklin nor his attorney had responded to requests for comment.