Willacy Co. Puts Temporary Halt to Building Permits Due to 8-Liner Establishments

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SEBASTIAN – Commissioners are halting all business construction permits in Willacy County as an effort to curtail the growth of 8-liners.

The game rooms that continue popping up in unincorporated areas are associated with several kinds of crimes, said Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence.

On Thursday, commissioners approved a temporary halt to commercial building permits.

The halt is ordered to last no more than 30 days, according to meeting minutes.

The official justification of the decision is to "address issues of related public safety and public hazard."

Thursday's discussion started as consideration of a "temporary halt of issuing building permits for additional game room facilities."

The motion approved by commissioners varied from the original language. The county is not able to specifically target 8-liners, said county attorney Annette Hinojosa.

"We're getting so many down there it's hard to keep track of them," said Spence.

Complaints against 8-liners include traffic, litter and breaking the law with higher-than-legal payouts, he said.

Spence also points to an armed robbery attempt in Willacy County last year, where a security guard shot intruders.

"Everyone wants to say 'oh it's because of the game room,'" said Eddie Garcia Jr., an 8-liner owner in Sebastian. "It's not just because of the game room."

Garcia sees Sebastian as having more of a development problem than a crime problem.

"Right now, there's not even a restaurant here," he said.

Garcia wants officials to find a way to tax the kinds of machines he operates.

He believes it's the path to bring the game room business to a more reputable standing.

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