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City council tables public hearing on proposed brewery in downtown Rockwall

Rendering of the Siren Rock Brewing Company

(ROCKWALL, TX – July 17, 2018) After a lengthy discussion during its July 16th meeting, the Rockwall city council decided to table the public hearing on the Specific Use Permit for the proposed Siren Rock Brewing Company in the downtown district.

The proposed brewery would be located directly across the street from City Hall, just south of the intersection of Alamo Street and Washington Street. The floor plan shows a facility totaling 11,931 square feet, complete with an event space/patio, a second patio area, a 4,479 square foot taproom which includes a 508 square foot banquet/meeting room, and an onsite brewery.

On June 4, the city council had approved a text amendment to its city ordinance to allow for a craft brewery/distillery or winery within the downtown district. However, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-1 to deny the applicant’s request for a SUP during its meeting on July 10. Some of the concerns the P and Z had were with the property’s location and the downhill curve to turn into the property, which they feared would be problematic for people leaving the brewery (possibly inebriated) trying to turn onto that curve back onto Goliad.

A public hearing on the item had been scheduled for the council meeting Monday night, but the applicant, Cory Cannon, requested to withdraw his application for a SUP in order to go back to the drawing board and address the concerns of the P and Z.

With the request for withdrawal, City Manager Rick Crowley said the council’s options would be to “approve the request to withdraw, hold a public hearing on the item or to table consideration of that and have the option two weeks from tonight to hold the public hearing; approve the withdraw; or take no action, which would be the same as an item withdrawal.”

According to city ordinances, the P and Z’s vote to deny the SUP can be overturned by a super majority vote (75 percent) of the council.

Director of Planning and Zoning Ryan Miller said a tabling of the public hearing means the council would be required to hold a public hearing on the item within the next 30 days, which in this case would mean the next council meeting on Aug. 6. If no public hearing is held on the item at the next council meeting, the application for the SUP is effectively withdrawn without prejudice.

Councilmember Patrick Trowbridge made a motion to approve the withdraw and was in favor of having Cannon work with P and Z on its concerns with the proposed brewery.

“Siren Rock Brewing Company is being developed by Rockwall citizens who are experienced in running businesses in Rockwall,” Trowbridge said. “It’s creative for our city, our property taxes, and our sales taxes. It’s not a chain, it’s unique to our downtown square. I actually applaud Mr. Cannon’s discipline in sticking with his business plan by not making adjustments just to appease us.

“I want the P and Z to find a solution that will be able to work for the majority of us, because quite frankly I find that government influence on making change to a business or what they want to do makes my skin crawl. I want to accept his withdrawal, put it back to P&Z and have the Commission work through it to make a proposal we can discuss and work with.”

Trowbridge motion was seconded by Councilmember Trace Johannesen. Pruitt spoke against the motion, arguing that if the applicant wanted to go back through the P and Z, “the way our ordinance reads is that you make a substantial change to your plan.”

“I think we’re creating a bad precedent here by saying we don’t like what the P and Z voted, but we don’t want to vote head up on it at the council meeting like the ordinance requires. We want to change the deal, go back to the P and Z, and see if we can have a do-over again. I think that this is playing with the rules to do that.”

Pruitt, who owns the office building to the north of the property off Washington Street on the square, spoke as a business owner and citizen against the brewery at the P and Z public hearing on July 10, citing among his concerns the safety of citizens leaving the brewery crossing the median to get to the downtown square.

“I’ve got an open mind about this, although you all know I’ve been adamantly against it,” Pruitt said. “I just want Mr. Cannon to know that if we go back through the process, they’ll be a different crowd at the P and Z meeting than there was last week, as a matter of the folks who I have heard from who are opposed to this. We really didn’t have a whole lot of people from either side at the Planning and Zoning Commission. But I actually reached out to Mr. Cannon’s attorney over the weekend and said I was willing to consider some things.”

Cannon said much of the concerns he’s heard about the brewery have dealt with people being able to buy alcohol from the brewery and bring it outside into the downtown square.

“A lot of things that have been spoken against our brewery are just not true,” Cannon said. “It’s constantly about, can I have people buy a drink and then go walk out across the road with it? No, we can’t. TABC doesn’t allow that. Our license would be revoked in a second if we let that happen. I would assume that Rockwall doesn’t have the resources to be able to manage that, so why not let the TABC manage what they do?

“I’ve told everyone from day one that I do not want to build something where I am not wanted. I’m the kind of person who wants everyone’s approval, and I get that it doesn’t always happen that way. But I just want the fair end of the stick.”

“I really just want to know if you want to do it this way or go back through the P and Z?” Pruitt responded. “Because again, I think you’ll see a different crowd of people on the negative side of that at another P and Z meeting. If you want to do that, that’s fine. We can fight that battle, but it’s going to be about fighting a battle and not about compromise.”

Cannon replied that he’s okay with tabling the item as long as he has the option at the next council meeting to request to withdraw it again. Approval of the withdrawal would only require a simple majority vote of the council.

Trowbridge withdrew his previous motion to permit the applicant’s request to withdraw his application for a SUP, and made another motion to table the public hearing until the next council meeting on Aug. 6. Johanessen seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously 7-0.

By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News.

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