Athens Review, Athens, Texas

November 8, 2013

Precinct 3 ready for alcohol

Chad Wilson
The Athens Review

Athens — A large portion of Henderson County will soon sell beer and wine as a little less than 1,000 voters turned out to vote in the special election Nov. 5.

Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 voters decided the issue with 536 “for” votes and 444 “against.”

Different than commissioner precincts, JP Precinct 3 runs from Chandler to just west of Murchison on Highway 31, north to the Van Zandt County line and south to just below Farm-to-Market Road 317 to Flat Creek.

Chandler voted to allow the sale of beer and wine during the November, 2012 election, but two of the other cities in JP3 have both voted down alcohol propositions in the last five years.

Brownsboro last faced the possibility of “going wet” in 2010 when liquor was an option with beer and wine. Then, 27 percent of registered voters turned out for the election and nixed the proposal 84-69.

During the 2011 election in Murchison, voters voiced their desire to stay alcohol-free, as 60.74 percent of the 135 voters said no (82-53) to the legal sale of all alcoholic beverages for off-premise consumption.

Texas Petition Strategies was hired to aid in the election process by the Henderson County Committee for Economic Growth for this election.

By including the entire JP precinct, the committee was able to draw from a larger number of voters and avoid another city-by-city election.

According to data provided by the Henderson County elections office, 995 of 8,808 registered voters in JP3 voted in the alcohol election. That is roughly 11 percent.

In a breakdown of the unofficial election results by precinct, Brownsboro area voters cast 200 votes “for” the legal sale of beer/wine for off-premise consumption and 144 “against.”

“I am excited about the recent election results,” Brownsboro Mayor Terry Mills said. “I am aware of the varying opinions on the matter. However, I was for it and do believe that in the coming months, it will help the city of Brownsboro.”

During its October city council meeting, Brownsboro established an ordinance for the sale of alcohol in the city.

“We've all heard all the pros and cons from the citizens, but they have spoken on the matter, and it is what it is,” Mills said. “The city of Brownsboro has been proactive on the matter, and has ordinances in place to regulate the consumption, selling distances and signage pertaining the sale. I am anticipating some improvements to our yearly budget in regards to the increase of revenue. I am optimistic to a degree, but also understand that it will take some time to see what we can expect as an average increase.”

The additional revenue will help the city as it seeks to repair its infrastructure. A discussion on repairing city streets is expected to take place during the Nov. 14 council meeting.

“The city will not get ahead of ourselves until we have a firm grasp on the matter,” Mills said. “But, if all goes well, the citizens, within time, will see their voting efforts produce some results. At this time, several ideas are churning through our minds, but that is all that they are at the moment, just ideas. But time will tell soon enough.”

Chandler voted 173-148 in the election, as 321 votes were cast from the city.

Since last November's election, Chandler has seen at least a 10-percent increase in its monthly sales-tax allocations.

“I do not expect JP3 now being able to sell beer and wine to significantly impact Chandler's sales tax,” City administrator John Taylor said. “I am sure there will be some lost alcohol sales to convenience stores near the lake and in Brownsboro, but many people stop at Brookshire's on their way home from work in Tyler, and the election results will not change that. One thing is true, Chandler's alcohol election one year ago gave us a one-year head start, but if it had not occurred, the Precinct 3 election would have put us in the same place.”

Murchison-area voters continued their stance against alcohol, but voted down the proposition 90-72.

The Lake Palestine-area voters supported the alcohol proposition as 59 percent voted “for” it. Unofficial results have 91 “for” and 62 “against.”

JP3 convenience stores are now eligible to file for a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Mills said all three of Brownsboro's established businesses, who would benefit from the sale of beer/wine, are eligible to do so, despite their proximity to churches and schools.

The proposition passed will only allow the sale of beer and wine in businesses such as grocery and convenience stores. It will not allow package liquor sales or liquor stores.

While the wait for a TABC permit varies, customers can expect to see beer and wine on store shelves in JP3 by the end of the year.