Moments after a local minister noted that Stephenville has become the “wettest dry county in Texas,” Stephenville City Council members put off taking action on a request Tuesday to rezone property so that a new restaurant could open and serve alcohol on Washington Street.

Also Tuesday, the council referred to committee a request to designate Highway 108/Graham Street as being “The Dr. Carl Phillips Memorial Highway” from the north to the south city limits.

Phillips died in March 2006 after spending a lifetime giving back to the community, having received awards along the way, ranging from “66 years of Dedicated Service to the Chamber of Commerce” to recognition from President Clinton for “72 years of service to Harris Methodist Hospital.”

“These are examples of a lifetime of service - a lifetime of exemplary service,” said Mike Hannah, chaplin at Harris Methodist Erath County Hospital, who made the presentation to the council on behalf of a group of citizens who favor honoring Phillips with the designation.

Mayor Rusty Jergins moved to send the proposal to the council’s Public Works Committee, noting the item hadn’t been placed on the agenda and therefore the council could not act on it.

Meanwhile, council member Alan Nash offered the quickly approved motion to table Stephenville Wings LLC’s request to have the property at 2811 W. Washington St. rezoned from being an “Industrial District” to B-5 “Restaurant/Alcohol Beverage Service District.”

The proposed 1,400-square-foot restaurant would be included among a strip of buildings on property located between Chili’s and the Holiday Inn and near FMC on Washington Street.

Nash said he wanted the council to hear from representatives of Stephenville Wings LLC, which is leasing the space for the restaurant, and of Croesus Capital Partners of Dallas, the owner of the property, before making a decision.

Mayor Pro-Tem Todd McEvoy said it make sense to further look in to the request because allowing restaurants to sell alcohol is such a “touchy issue for the community.”

Nash said he was “puzzled” why the applicants had offered “so little information,” especially when there are six other potential businesses in the strip of buildings.

Council member Mark Murphy said he favored not acting on the request because he wanted to “know what’s going in next door.”

Murphy said he wants to know if it’s going to be a “video game” store or something like that because deciding on whether to vote in favor of the rezoning.

Council member Malcolm Cross warned his colleagues about going against the request, saying that although he doesn’t like “alcohol myself, don’t touch it,” the council should approve the request if it met council-approved rules for businesses to be awarded B-5 zoning.

“The basic issue here is one of fairness,” Cross said.

After a local resident stood up and said the Jail Log that appears routinely in the newspaper has shown an increase in alcohol arrests since more restaurants have been allowed to serve alcohol, Cross said, “It’s premature to blame restaurants that serve alcohol with meals.”

Cross said he would like to see evidence showing why the number of alcohol-related arrests appear to be up in the Jail Log.

In addition Tuesday, council members voted to:

Approve the final plat for a 192-unit, student-housing complex in the 2800 block of West Frey Street. Send to committee a proposal to reduce the minimum size of a “dwelling unit” in a multiple-family dwelling complex from 800 square feet to 500 square feet for one bedroom or smaller unit. Approve spending $9,400 to contract with P.E. Consulting Services for an “Insurance Office Study,” a move that could ultimately improve the city’s insurance rating and result in savings for residents on fire insurance. Approve spending $30,000 to hire MCCI to computerize and provide better storage for old documents. Spend $15,000 to hire Danny Johnson to provide inspection services. Apply for a variety of public safety grants. Purchase vehicles for the police department.

DOUG MYERS is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at doug.myers@empiretribune.com or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.