Monday, May 6, 2013
Plano embroiled in protests against 150 proposed liquor stores
The May 11 election will determine whether Plano will allow package liquor sales.
PLANO One week remains until voters decide whether package liquor sales will be allowed in Plano, and the battle between groups representing both sides of the issue is showing no signs of slowing down.
The war of words has mostly been Plano Citizens for Economic Equality, the political action committee that gathered 25,600 signatures to get the measure on the ballot in January, and Save Plano, a group opposing package liquor sales.
One of the biggest sore points between the two has been the veracity of Save Plano's claim that 150 liquor stores will come to the city of Plano if the liquor election passes, a figure displayed on a billboard on the Dallas North Tollway at Trinity Mills Road in Dallas and disseminated in direct mailers sent to Plano residents last week.
Save Plano's website says the figure was derived from the number of liquor stores in Lubbock with package liquor sales -- 49, according to the site -- four years after a local option election, as well as "an analysis based on population density and the surrounding population" in Plano.
The website states voters in the city of Lubbock approved liquor sales, but it was actually Lubbock County voters that passed the local option in May 2009. According to the city of Lubbock planning department, the city has 37 liquor stores, and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission website lists 49 package liquor permits in the county.
The prediction drew immediate ire from the opposing PAC's spokesman, consultant John Hatch of Texas Petition Strategies, who said the cities' populations -- Lubbock has 233,740 people, and Plano has 269,776 -- make it hard to extrapolate 150 Plano liquor stores from Lubbock's alleged 49.
Billy Horton, founder of Hard Count, a consulting group that has been providing assistance to Save Plano and purchased the billboard, said the calculations also included the population of the cities bordering Plano which do not allow package liquor sales, as well as the amount of vacant retail space in the city of Plano. He said the figure was not generated by Save Plano, but rather by an outside economic development group.
Horton said it would be disingenuous to suggest there would only be "a few" more liquor stores if the measure passes, adding state laws make it difficult for cities to control the amount of liquor stores in their cities.
"If you've got a piece of property and it's zoned commercial and it exceeds the distances that are stipulated by the state of Texas and TABC, as far as it being a certain distance from a school, day care center, a hospital or a church, well guess what? You can build a liquor store there," he said.
But even taking the surrounding population into account, Hatch said, the numbers don't add up. He points to TABC liquor permit statistics for larger cities: The commission's website shows Dallas as having 156 package liquor stores, San Antonio as having 140, and Fort Worth as having 78.
"How can you claim a town the size of 270,000 people is supposed to have as many liquor stores as the city of Dallas at 1.2 million, San Antonio [at] 1.3 million -- even twice as many as Fort Worth?" he said, adding one would have to add the populations of Denton and Collin counties to have a population sample the size of many cities with nearly 150 liquor stores.
There are currently nine liquor stores in Collin County, all of which are either in Anna and Lowry Crossing, cities that passed liquor elections in 2005 and 2011, respectively.
Early voting ends Tuesday. Election Day is May 11. For polling locations and hours, visit plano.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2661.
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