Sherman denies variances for alcohol sales near school campus

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The Sherman City Council denied an appeal that would have allowed a convenience store at 415 S. Dewey to sell alcohol due to its proximity to an elementary school.

The Sherman City Council upheld the denial of a variance on Oct. 4 that would have allowed a local convenience store to sell alcoholic beverages near an elementary campus. The council voted unanimously to deny allowing the Lucky Stop, located at 415 S. Dewey Avenue to sell beer and wine.

Monday's denial represents the second zoning request that has been denied by the city due to proximity to an Sherman Independent School District campus within the past month. Late last month, the Sherman Planning and Zoning Commission denied permits a new tobacco shop near Wakefield Elementary.

"Our ordinance requires that alcohol sales establishments that want to locate within 300 feet of a school must come before you to get a variance," Sherman City Attorney Ryan Pittman said, noting that it is otherwise prohibited by ordinance.

The dispute over the variance that would allow for alcohol sales started in July when the city initially denied the request due to the sites proximity to Crutchfield Elementary. Upon measuring, the city found that the distance between the two properties was about 70 feet.

"Upon inspection, it was found that your business is within 300 feet of a public school, and therefore the sale of alcoholic beverages, for which the license or permit is sought is prohibited by ordinance," City Clerk Linda Ashby wrote in the denial letter dated July 20.

In his appeal to the denial, Ty Osmani, owner of the property and six other convenience stores in Sherman-Denison, did not dispute that the property is within 300 feet of a school campus. Instead, he argued that the denial was not in the best interest of the public, constitutes an inefficient use of land and resources and creates an undue hardship for him.

Osmani first purchased the location at 415 S. Dewey in December 2019 with plans to redevelop it. About six months later, he purchased the adjacent 405 S. Dewey and planed to use it in the redevelopment.

The plans called for the store to be moved onto the property at 405 S. Dewey in order to move it away from the school. However, it was later discovered that a sewer line was on this property and would need to be moved for the development.

Osmani noted that the sale of alcohol was necessary to make the project financially viable. Without it, he would have to sell the properties at a substantial loss.

"Unless the location has something else a customer wants, such as food and alcohol, which have higher profit margins, business is doomed," Edgar Korzeniowski, an attorney representing Osmani, wrote in the appeal. "The 415 S. Dewey location is no exception. There is a reason why the previous business failed."

The short distance between the store and the school appeared to be deal breaker for members of the council. Council Member Shawn Teamann noted that the two properties are effectively adjacent, separated only by city right of way.

Council Member Pam Howeth asked Osmani if there were any alternative uses for the site. As an example, she asked if a small grocery store could be placed there. This part of town is considered by some to be a food desert, and a smaller grocer would help with that. Osmani said that option would not be viable as he would be unable to compete with other nearby stores.

When put to a vote, the request was unanimously denied by the council.