If they’re wearing yellow, they may not be telling you the whole story
Parker County Precinct 4 has been swarming lately with people wearing yellow shirts, collecting petition signatures. The petition seeks to get alcohol sales in Precinct 4 on the ballot.
Precinct 4 is basically the southeast corner of Parker County, and encompasses all or parts of Aledo, Willow Park, Hudson Oaks and the Annettas.
One such person came to my door on Sunday and gave me the sales pitch: most of the communities in Precinct 4 are already “wet.” This petition would just “even out” so the rest of the precinct could have the ability to attract nice restaurants.
Well, yes and no.
There are a variety of methods of alcohol sales and consumption that can be voted on in Texas towns and counties. As a member of the Aledo Economic Development Board, I became educated as we heard from our constable, Scott Jones, who retired from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and a representative of that organization.
Aledo voters decided sale of beer and wine for off-premises consumption, and sale of drinks in restaurants, was appropriate for the community. Voters in Willow Park did the same a few years before.
Hudson Oaks pretty much went all-in, allowing beer, wine and liquor sales, on- and off-premises. This means in Hudson Oaks there can be liquor stores and bars, but not in Aledo or Willow Park.
So what’s the big deal?
Here’s the big deal: if the ballot measure the petition advocates is passed, it opens the door in the entire unincorporated part of Precinct 4 to basically unrestricted alcohol sales (all alcohol sales have some restrictions, as set by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission).
Even in Hudson Oaks, with the most liberal policy of all communities, there is still the safety net that the city can zone, setting specific locations for alcohol-related businesses.
The county has no zoning authority. So if this measure passes, anyone who other qualifies to own a liquor store or a bar can set it up wherever he or she wants to, as long as it is not within 300 feet of a school, church, or hospital.
There is a lot of unincorporated land in Precinct 4. The city limits of Aledo, Hudson Oaks, and Willow Park, (not to mention the Annettas) cover a fraction of the land area. Many people don’t realize, for example, that going north of Sonic in Aledo is unincorporated, as is the east end of Scenic Trail in Willow Park.
The issue is not alcohol
The issue I am raising is not yes or no to alcohol – it is how much, and where. The petition, in this case, while paid for by the Walsh Development, was instigated out of a Political Action Committee in Austin that gets paid to shepherd issues like this to the finish line. The person who came to my door said the purpose was to be able to get nice restaurants in the rest of the precinct.
That reminded me of when we were kids, and would go get soft drinks at the store fountains. We would mix Coke, Dr. Pepper, orange, grape, and whatever else was available – we mixed in all in our cup and called it a “Suicide.”
The Walsh developers could have gotten what they wanted with any number of flavors without going full in. A petition along the lines of what Willow Park and Aledo did would have fit in nicely with the lifestyle of a community whose main reason for being is the school district.
Following the Money
We’ve always been told that, if you want to know the true motivation of a political actor, follow the money. While The Community News was not among the original recipients of the press release announcing the petition drive, we did obtain a copy. The petition was on the letterhead of the Texas Alcohol Beverage Coalition, not to be confused with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which regulates alcohol. The Coalition is a registered Political Action Committee.
Digging into their records, I found that the Coalition has raised about $135,000 since 2015, with the lion’s share of that ($95,000) coming from Wild Pitch Sports Bar and Grill. I have no idea if they have local plans, but their website is interesting, to say the least.
Time and Place
There is a time and a place for everything. It is not my intention to tell you whether or not you should sign the petition. For my place, I did not, and will not, because I think it opens the door too wide for our community as it is. We are in the midst of massive growth, and in that environment, I think the fabric of the community is a bit fragile for such a potentially radical change.
Walsh is running the risk, in my view, of a major public relations disaster. The developers strong-armed the school district into locating a campus there when there may not be a single student living in the development when the school opens. They dictated the color scheme of the school. And now, in the process of getting what they want, are foisting a high-pressure petition drive on the community.
We all want to be good neighbors. But we also want Walsh to be good neighbors to us as well.
All that said, if you are in favor of what the petition asks, by all means, sign it. I just want you to know what you are signing, and the people collecting the signatures haven’t been telling you the whole story.