ARLINGTON — A day after Arlington voters overwhelmingly approved allowing package liquor stores to open in the city for the first time, some City Council members are pushing for tougher regulations on where those businesses can operate.After Tuesday’s election, liquor stores with Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission permits will be allowed to open in areas zoned for business, light industrial or industrial manufacturing, if their locations are at least 100 feet away from public and private schools, churches, day-care facilities and hospitals, said Jim Parajon, director of community development and planning.“If they are permitted by state law, they would be permitted by right in those districts,” Parajon said.But some council members are seeking to increase the distance requirement to a minimum of 300 feet, which is allowed by state law and is in place in Fort Worth and other North Texas cities.“I would assume we would want to make that a priority and take a look at it,” at-large Councilman Michael Glaspie said. “I do think that is something we need to address as quickly as possible so there won’t be any misunderstanding about what can be done regarding those institutions.”According to complete but unofficial results, nearly 70 percent of the 15,638 ballots cast were in favor of Arlington’s local option election, which will also allow wine sales at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Residents can already buy beer and wine at grocery and convenience stores and other alcoholic beverages at restaurants and bars, but they must travel outside the city to buy bottles of hard liquor.Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon, who represents west Arlington, said she has been approached by a developer interested in opening a big-box type liquor store. Wilemon, who did not support the proposition, said she hopes the council will discuss increasing the setback distance before liquor stores begin applying for permits to open. The current 100-foot setback is not enough, she said.“We don’t know where they are going to go,” Wilemon said. “They will likely be large, big-box stores. They do generate an awful lot of traffic. In certain places, that can be a real problem. We will look into it to make sure we do what is prudent and best for our children and our constituents.”Cities and counties can increase the distance requirement from schools to 1,000 feet in certain cases to create an alcohol-free zone if they receive a request from the school board or the governing body of a private school.Liquor stores cannot apply for city permits until the election results are officially canvassed, which is scheduled for Nov. 18, Parajon said. Besides applying for a permit, liquor stores will be required to file an application with the city secretary’s office, he said.“The process that a business would go through would be very similar to a restaurant that serves alcohol or a bar,” Parajon said. “It’s very consistent with how we handle other businesses that have alcohol elements to them.”Zoning for business, light industrial and industrial manufacturing is primarily east of Texas 360, along Division Street, along Interstate 20 from Cooper Street to the eastern city limits and along Cooper Street from Arkansas Lane to the southern city limits. The zoning is also available in patches of north, west and southwest Arlington, according to a city zoning map.Because so many liquor stores are already open in nearby Dalworthington Gardens, Pantego and Fort Worth, Glaspie said, he is not certain how many new businesses would seek to open in Arlington.“You don’t really know what is going to happen. It’s not like people haven’t been able to get their drinks before,” said Glaspie, who also didn’t support the proposition. “Hopefully we won’t be flooded with new requests.”Nearly 8.5 percent of Arlington’s 184,708 registered voters turned out for Tuesday’s election, which also included nine proposed Texas constitutional amendments. About 6 percent of Arlington’s 181,666 registered voters turned out for the mayoral election in May, according to Tarrant County elections office. This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock