Confusion over the interpretation of state law led Dripping Springs city leaders to postpone a decision on a proposed wine distribution warehouse to be located on Sportsplex Drive.
The warehouse’s potential tenant, Truly Texas Grown Wine Cellars, would not sell alcohol on premise or include on-sight consumption. The business model is centered around online wine sales and distribution as well as wine education.
But earlier this month, Dripping Springs Planning and Zoning Commissioners recommended denial by a 6-1 vote, citing the facility is 300 feet away from Walnut Spring Elementary School, which requires a variance.
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) code requires businesses that sell alcohol to be more than 300 feet from a school or church. The code, which was last amended in 2001, does not make a distinction between the different types of sales, such as online versus on-site.
City leaders and officials, however, were confused on the language of the statute and how it should be interpreted.
Planning Director Jason Lutz, who has been in contact with the TABC on the 300-foot rule, cited a slight discretion in the language. The confusion concerns the 300-foot setback and whether it starts at the property line or at the front door of a building on the property. The interpretation could determine how far the distribution center is from the campus.
“State law is intended to prohibit any alcohol within 300 feet of a school, whether you deliver or not,” said councilmember Travis Crow. “I love my small businesses and I wish you were here, but the state didn’t keep up with the changing world. So be it.”
Lutz said he is awaiting a comment from TABC on the language of the law.
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds said a decision by the city council without input from the TABC could prove problematic for the city. City leaders were scheduled to take action on a variance for the warehouse, as well as a possible Conditional Use Permit.
“If we deny the variance, but approve the CUP, and TABC comes back and says it’s beyond 300 feet, a variance wouldn’t be needed,” Foulds said. Foulds said the scenario could allow the warehouse owners to open the facility without formal approval.
Bob Wilson, the owner of the building where the warehouse is proposed, said at an earlier P&Z meeting the law hasn’t kept up with the times.
Larry Epp of Truly Texas Grown Wine Cellars told P&Z commissioners he wanted to move his business to Dripping Springs to support the local wineries. Epp said he wants to educate people about Texas wines to spread awareness of the products.
“I own a chocolate store and we have kids running around, so trust me, if I didn’t believe this was safe, I wouldn’t support it…,” Wilson said at the P&Z meeting. “As a business owner and the building owner, I think you’re making a big mistake.”