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Embattled raspa stand on thin ice with City of Mission

A raspa stand franchise in the city of Mission must comply with its original permit to close their drive-thru window at 10 p.m. everyday.

That’s what members of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted Wednesday when they denied an extension to the hours of the drive-thru service window for the Snowball Express raspa stand – which has two locations, one at the intersection of Mile 2 and Mayberry Road and the other between Inspiration and Los Ebanos Road on West Griffin Parkway.

20180427 SnowballExpressnightPlanning & Zoning Chairman Ned Sheats stressed that even though the drive-thru window cannot be in service past 10 p.m., the business can remain operational as late as it wants.

“Similar businesses are under the same ordinance,” he said, adding that the hours are put in place to prevent long lines at raspa stands late at night, which could disrupt neighbors.

Mission Planning Director Jaime Acevedo said the next step for the business is to go to the Mission City Council at their May 14 regular meeting as the council has a final say on the hours of extension. The council will probably deny the extension on the recommendation from the P&Z Commission, Acevedo said.

Snowball Express owner Elgin Xavier applied for the permit extension after officers with the city’s code enforcement office stopped by both locations last month to shut them down for operating past 10 p.m. This caused Xavier to turn to Facebook where he posted about the incident and created a petition that garnered 1,600 signatures in support of extending the hours of the business.

Planning and Zoning commissioners, however, didn’t take the support of the public into consideration in their decision. The commissioners unanimously agreed the business should comply with its own permit to have an operational drive-thru window that closes at 10 p.m.

This permit is one Xavier has gotten renewed by the P&Z Commission since 2013, Mission Planning Director Jaime Acevedo told the commissioners.

“It wasn’t until the city started receiving noise complaints from neighbors in the area that we were in the loop for the actual hours of operation for this business,” Acevedo said of the Griffin Parkway location during a presentation Wednesday. “A resident said people would wait up to 20 minutes for their order, play loud music and rev their engines, basically disrupting the neighbor’s way of life as these people are usually asleep before then. Although we support the business and want it to succeed, we cannot support the extended hours out of respect for the citizens in the area.”

Commissioners were also made aware of issues at both locations.

The Griffin Parkway location, for example, is at a lot that is 60 by 120 square feet with only six parking spots. The location at Mayberry is at a lot at least four times the size of their Griffin Parkway location and has 20 parking spots available. Both locations also have 12 employees each and serve fried food even though Acevedo said neither Snowball Express locations have grease traps and have stated in their permits they plan to only employ five people.

“If we had known the number of employees and customers they’d have and the fact they wanted to be open so late, we’d never have granted the original permit,” Commissioner Ned Sheats said.

During the public hearing portion of the discussion, Xavier claimed he had no idea he was supposed to inform the P&Z Commission on changes to his business hours. He also said the hours of service are similar to those in his locations in San Juan, McAllen and Edinburg.

“We are the only [raspa stand] open past 10 p.m.,” he told commissioners. “There is no place to eat after 10 p.m. at Mission, everywhere else is closed at that time. People want to come with us after watching a movie or T.V., it’s a place of entertainment for families.”

Xavier also unsuccessfully attempted to show the commissioners signatures from nearby residents from both locations saying they approve of it being open past 10 p.m., adding that he feels the city is bullying his place of business for imposing the hours of operation.

“These issues are entirely self-inflicted, these would not have been a concern if you had come to us at the beginning with these hours,” Sheats told Xavier. “This issue is based on the fact that you originally agreed to a 10 p.m. closing. That is a fact…those hours you agreed to are spelled out in the application you applied for.”

After Snowball Express was forced to close early last month, Acevedo met with Xavier and other staff members of Snowball Express where both parties came to an agreement to remain open through 1 a.m until April 6th. After, the raspa stand was to comply with the permit.

However, Progress Times observed both locations Tuesday at around 10:45 p.m. and saw they were still serving customers at both locations, something one commission member was aware of.

Chairwoman Diana Izaguirre, who lives near the Mayberry location, said she often sees Snowball Express open past 10 p.m. and has a stacking issue where the line at the drive thru heads out onto the street.

“It’s a great location but there shouldn’t be a stacking issue if it’s such a big lot and has all that parking space,” Izaguirre said.

Also speaking at the public hearing portion of the discussion was San Juanita Cantu, who told commissioners she lives within 30 feet from the location at Griffin Parkway. The noise coming from customers is a nuisance and as a result she and her husband have missed several nights of sleep, she said.

“My health is starting to suffer,” she told commissioners. “I have nothing against this business or people having fun, but they are in the wrong location if they want to stay open until 2 a.m. The business owner cannot control the behavior of his customers.”

She warned commissioners that if this permit is approved, more raspa stands will also want extension to their hours of operation, causing similar problems in other areas.

Acevedo told commissioners the code enforcement office plans to survey other raspa stands in the city to ensure their drive-thru windows are not operational past 10 p.m. Xavier, however, said he felt like his business was being singled out.

“It’s a totally unfair decision,” he said of the permit denial, adding his businesses could lose $1,000 per night for closing at 10 p.m. “They’re denying us the opportunity to serve more customers and ways for us to pay more taxes to the city. We just want to work.”

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