Recikeeps

Planning b and b transmission longview texas Zoning commissioners denied a developer’s rezoning request on Tuesday for a liquor store on Eastman Road.

longview texas realtorsCommissioners’ 5-4 vote isn’t the end of the road for Nishil Patel, who said he will take his request to Longview City Council on March 9 for the zoning he needs to build Heritage Wine & Spirits on property where previous deed and zoning restrictions prohibit package stores.

It will require a supermajority vote, meaning that at least six of the seven-person council must vote in favor of his request for passage, according to city staff.

Opposed to his request is Matt Cheney, president of Applied Consultants, a pipeline-inspection company located adjacent to Patel’s property. Cheney wrote in a Feb. 2 letter to Planning and Zoning commissioners that he will urge his board of directors to relocate its headquarters to another city if the package store is constructed, citing safety, loitering and litter concerns.

Planning and Zoning Chairman Lonnie Murphy said he was involved in the case that brought Applied Consultants to its present location and understands how important the restrictions were to company leaders. He was, in essence, the deciding vote Tuesday at City Hall.

“Because I was part of that, I can’t in good conscience not stay with it,” Murphy said.

At one point in the meeting, Murphy asked audience members to stand to show their stance on the application. Twenty-five people stood in support of Patel’s application, while 13 people stood in opposition.

Patel wants planned development-heavy commercial zoning on a 0.96-acre property tract that he purchased Nov. 16. It includes a 4,200-square-foot building that he’s expanding into a 5,200-square-foot store

It’s currently under heavy commercial zoning with a stipulation that no package stores, sexually oriented businesses, taverns or clubs can be built on it. Patel wants the stipulation against package stores removed, but he’s agreed to maintain other restrictions from 2001. He’s already built an 8-foot wood fence to buffer from nearby homes, he said.

Cheney didn’t appear at Thursday’s hearing, but developer Scott Zhorne — who owns the property on which Applied Consultants now sits — asked the board to deny Patel’s request. He cited the restrictions as reasons the company moved to the location instead of to a Kilgore property.

“While I appreciate young developers,” Zhorne said, “this is not the place for a package store.”

Robert Johnson, pulpit minister of nearby Longview Church of Christ, asked commissioners to consider — besides the highly trafficked Eastman Road — the surrounding homes, businesses and his congregation.

“Package stores and churches don’t go together,” Johnson said. “If this goes through, I feel betrayed.”

Alan Fenwick, a nearby resident, called Cheney’s letter “whining.”

“That’s a threat. You know, people don’t like to be threatened,” Fenwick said of Cheney’s letter. “That doesn’t sound right. That doesn’t sound like a justified cause.”

Patel plans to install more lighting than is necessary at the location “to make everyone feel safe,” and that the installed privacy fence should separate the store’s atmosphere from Applied Consultants, he said. He also brought letters of support from the mayor, police chief and a local bank president in Lone Star, where Patel has operated a similar store since 2011, he said.

“Heritage is not a bar,” Patel said, adding that his package store permit allows alcohol sales only for off-premise consumption and that loitering wouldn’t be allowed at the store.

Gene Gallien, who lives in nearby Robbinwood subdivision, said a liquor store would increase neighborhood crime. Longview police neighborhood officers say package stores have not directly attracted crime in other parts of the city, according to staff.

John Thurman, a retired government surveyor, said he regularly drives by the location and sees no reason not to approve Patel’s request.

“He’s not a bar. He’s not a club. He’s not going to have people out drinking and making more noise,” Thurman said. “I have seen nothing for denying this man this permit to open his store.”

Real estate broker Suzanne Smith also spoke in support of Patel, saying “I know everything (members of Patel’s family) do is first class, first class. … We have a young man who is trying to improve the business footprint here in Longview.”

Commissioners Tem Carpenter, Lance Schooley, Nancy Murray and Ronnie Rice voted in support of Patel’s request, but were outvoted by Murphy, Don Dingler, Frankie Parson, Tracy Vincent and Jack Jenkins.

“Unfortunately, we can’t make everybody happy,” Dingler said.

Commissioners also held public hearings on two other applications — a single-family to general retail rezone of 3 acres on Porter Lane, and site plan adjustments for two residential lots in a West Longview subdivision. No one spoke during either hearing.

On Berkley Street, First Choice Affordable Homes, LLC, needs to amend its already approved site plan in order to reduce minimum size, dimensions and setbacks for two lots in Key Bunt subdivision.

Meanwhile, developer Zhorne wants general retail zoning to allow for what he called a high-end office lease space along Porter Lane. The property is across the street from the former Ryan’s restaurant and East Texas Professional Credit Union near Longview High School.

The commission recommended both requests — First Choice and Zhorne – for City Council approval.

Commissioners also approved Irving-based builder JPI Development’s request to plat a 30-lot subdivision on 13 acres in the Longview Heights community. Page Creek Trail Subdivision is planned on Page Road at Victor Drive.

City staff recommended approving the plat with a condition that JPI secures a letter of credit before filing the plat.