Decades-old amusement attraction Wonder World Park will not be able to sell alcohol after all.

On Tuesday, the San Marcos City Council voted to approve an appeal filed by a couple who owns property near the park. The 5-2 vote—with Mayor John Thomaides and Council Member Scott Gregson voting against approving the appeal—means Wonder World Park will not receive the alcohol permit.

"I wouldn't call it a victory," Kaare Remme, who filed the appeal, said following the meeting, adding he would be willing to work with Wonder World Park in the future.

His concerns were primarily about any additional noise and light the park would draw with the use of alcohol sales. He said he was also worried about people drinking and driving.

Wonder World Park had proposed to sell beer and wine until 9 p.m. out of its 960-square-foot indoor/outdoor café, which currently serves food and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as in its courtyard during special events.

The park, which opened in 1903, is surrounded by single-family homes.

Remme's concerns were shared with at least eight other residents who spoke at the meeting, as well as several council members.

"I don’t think it’s appropriate that we have a beer garden in a residential neighborhood," resident James Baker said.

Owner Kristin Williams, who took over the business Oct. 1 from her father, said she is trying to revitalize the park and bring in more revenue.

Her plans include adding an arcade and various exhibitions, as well as increasing the amount of special events held "to enhance the tourism experience of San Marcos," she told council.

She said before she took over the park operations, there were several negotiations to sell the property, which is zoned General Commercial.

"I’m trying to work with the neighbors and I will continue to work with them," she said. "We’re trying to make it a destination year round."

Council members Lisa Prewitt, Jane Hughson and Melissa Derrick said they wanted Williams to look into other non-alcohol-related options for increasing attendance at the park.

"Come up with an operational plan, come up with some tools and some sound ideas that will mitigate some of the concerns of the neighborhood," Prewitt told Williams.

Thomaides and Gregson, who voted against approving the appeal—thereby granting Wonder World Park the alcohol permit—said since the area is zoned General Commercial, Williams could build a slew of things on the property without council approval.

Allowable uses include a convenience store, a hotel or motel, a laundromat or a used car lot.

"For me, I think it would be best to work with the family—who has proven for 50-60 years that they have been a good neighbor— to try to make it work for them and the surrounding neighborhood," Thomaides said.

Williams said she will continue to hold special events.

After six months, she can apply for another alcohol permit.

"I didn't think that offering current customers beer and wine was going to change and turn into something so big," Williams said prior to the vote.

Posted Nov. 20: Wonder World Park alcohol permit to be contested in San Marcos
Two people are appealing the Planning and Zoning Commission's decision to give a decades-old San Marcos business an alcohol permit.

Commissioners granted the 114-year-old natural theme park Wonder World Park an alcohol permit 5-4—with commissioners Jim Garber, Kate McCarty, Betseygail Rand and Mike Dillon opposing—on Oct. 10, but Brenda and Kaare Remme, who own two properties near the park, have a problem with the permit issuance.

The park wants to serve alcohol in its 960-square-foot indoor/outdoor café, which currently serves food and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as in its courtyard during special events.

In a letter to council, the Remmes listed several reasons they opposed Wonder World Park selling alcohol, including that the park needed to present an operational plan, that allowing alcohol sales would "drastically alter the character of the neighborhood" and that health, safety and public welfare implications were not fully considered.

Other concerns sited by the Remmes and other residents who submitted letters included noise and drinking and driving.

Several people spoke in opposition to the alcohol permit at the Oct. 10 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

"There is no effort historically to try to control the noise that comes from the property," Kaare Remme said, adding he thought it was unsafe to have alcohol near a children's entertainment site. "I certainly think that alcohol fuels the noise, fans the flame, and it's not necessary or safe."

Dianne Wassenich, the San Marcos River Foundation executive director, said she would be "extremely concerned" if this was in her neighborhood.

"It is essentially creating a bar, which we know causes a problem in many neighborhoods when it happens," she said.

Alcohol would not be allowed on the top platform of the observation tower and in the cave, the parking lot and the petting park.

According to planner Will Parish, the closest home to the area where alcohol would be served is about 450-500 feet.

A 6-foot-tall solid privacy fence would be located between Wonder World Park and the closest residential property.

Kristin Williams, the owner, said she is hoping to bring locals to the park.

"I think having something like [selling alcohol] would intrigue them to come back more often," she said Oct. 10.

She recently took over the business from her family and said she does not want to make it a "late-night bar scene".

The alcohol permit comes with the following conditions:
1. Business hours are limited to no later than 9 p.m. Monday-Sunday
2. Nonamplified live music is prohibited after 9 p.m.
3. Amplified music is prohibited outdoors after 9 p.m.
4. The permit is valid for one year

On Tuesday, council will be tasked with evaluating the impact and compatibility the alcohol permit has on surrounding properties and residential areas.

A simple majority vote, or four council members, is needed for council to act on the appeal.

Because the Remmes filed an appeal within 10 days of the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, the permit is not currently in effect, according to city spokesperson Kristy Stark.

In an email Saturday, the San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce urged chamber members to encourage City Council to uphold the planning and zoning commission's decision to grant the alcohol permit.

"As local business leaders, it is crucial we stand up for business and fight for an effective and reliable permit process that ensures singular agendas do not hinder the growth and prosperity of local business," President and CEO Jason Mock and Board Chair Kevin Carswell wrote.

The public hearing for the appeal begins at 7 p.m. Nov. 21, at San Marcos City Hall.