Local Business Group Calls for Reverse of Failed Policies that Have Left Small Car Dealerships Along NE 28th in Limbo and Made Automotive-Related Businesses Unwelcome Even in the Parts of Haltom Where They Belong
HALTOM CITY, TX, April 13, 2021 /24-7PressRelease/ — Drive Northeast 28th Street and you will see many small vacant lots that once were small car dealerships and auto-repair businesses. You will also see a lot of similar businesses that are still open but that have become dilapidated, making one of Haltom City’s busiest roads also one of its most rundown.
“In 2002, members of City Council embarked on a program to beautify and improve 28th Street by ridding it of small car lots,” said Haltom United Business Alliance (HUBA) Executive Director Drew Weakley. According to Weakley, the way they went about doing it was to rewrite the zoning code and table of uses adding a new category, C-5, that was exclusively for auto dealers.
“The rewrite ran 188 pages and gave the dealers only a short time to come in and request the new zoning,” said Weakley. If they didn’t, according to Weakley, they became legal non-conforming, a designation that means that the land can continue to be used as a car dealership, but the use does not conform to the city’s plan for the area, and the car dealers cannot expand or improve, in most cases. It can be argued, according to Weakley, that the designation makes the car lots unsalable.
Another feature of the rewrite that was intended to assure such businesses went elsewhere was a provision that an auto paint and body shop or garage could not coexist with a car dealership. “Many auto repair centers have dealer licenses; it’s a natural fit to buy and sell cars when you are fixing them, but those businesses aren’t allowed in Haltom city, without months-long public hearings, and even then, the zoning categories simply don’t allow them to operate at the same address,” said HUBA Member Ron Sturgeon, who opened his first business, an auto repair shop, in Haltom City 48 years ago.
To a certain extent, the rewrite worked as intended and many of the car dealers have closed, according to Weakley. The problem, he says, is that the properties are very small lots, and the setback and landscaping requirements make it virtually impossible to redevelop them. At the same time, the city’s rules forbidding a garage/body shop and a dealer on the same lot make them undesirable to new tenants who want to fix and sell cars. So, because of the zoning overhaul, many of the smaller lots remain vacant because they cannot practically be used for the purpose that is probably their best and highest use.
The situation isn’t much better for the small car dealers who are hanging on, said Weakley. The legal non-conforming designation stops them from getting permits to make any improvements, so their car lots become run down. “It’s ironic that Haltom City Council set out to beautify and improve an area, but the result has been the exact opposite because they rewrote the zoning laws without having any plan to redevelop the area,” said Weakley.
The area is heavily Hispanic, and many of those small buy-here pay-here car lots were Hispanic- owned and employed local people, said Weakley. The small dealers were also filling an important need in the marketplace, according to HUBA’s Executive Director. “Small buy here pay here lots are a little more flexible than big car dealers and often can find cars for people who may not have the credit or be able to provide all the documentation for an auto loan from a bank,” said Weakley.
“Those lots were contributing to the local economy in a part of town where more jobs and more development are sorely needed,” said Weakley. Had there been more members of the City Council in 2002 who really valued auto-related businesses, Haltom City Council might not have tried to run them out of town, said Weakley. Sadly, the council members today also don’t want any automotive businesses.
HUBA supports a program to fix NE 28th Street that allows existing dealers to get C-5 zoning and make improvements and that would open the vacant properties to other uses and supports updating zoning and the table of uses to make room for the auto-related businesses that once were a larger part of the city’s economy.
Many other kinds of small businesses are squeezed out by the restrictive table of uses, which requires months of public hearings just to find out if an entrepreneur can open a business in Haltom City. “Getting all those approvals precedes finding money, employees, making business plans, and all the other hard stuff that must be done to open,” said HUBA Member Ron Sturgeon. Most small businesses simply aren’t going to wait months to find out if they can get the required approvals to open,” added Sturgeon.
Haltom City has a lot of good things going for it, according to Weakley. “We have an able city manager and competent and pleasant city employees and a lot of people who want to find ways to create more opportunity and more choices for the people who work and live in the least advantaged parts of Haltom City,” he added.
“Anyone who has tried to develop a new property or open a new business in Haltom City lately knows how frustrating some of the processes can be,” said Weakley. By banding together, Haltom City’s small and medium-sized business owners can help to make changes that will create a better climate for all businesses, Weakley insists. He is also interested in hearing about issues business owners have experienced in Haltom City so that HUBA can push for reforms where they are needed.
A local real estate agent who did not want to be named because he feared the city would retaliate against him said, “Haltom City has been running off auto-related small businesses for years, and local politicians are simply out of touch with the citizens and their desire to have products, services and employment these businesses would provide.”
Follow HUBA on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Haltom-United-Business-Alliance-HUBA. To be added to HUBA’s email list or to discuss your experiences dealing with Haltom City, contact Drew Weakley at [email protected] or (682) 310-0591. If you would like a copy of the 2002 zoning overhaul, Drew can email you one.
About Haltom United Business Alliance
Haltom United Business Alliance (HUBA) wants to give members of Haltom City’s business community an advocate and to keep those businesses informed about issues that affect them. They want to make sure Haltom City is business friendly and nurture small business growth, including automotive businesses, and bring more restaurants including breweries and a major grocery store to the city. New businesses and growth in existing businesses will create a stronger tax base which will allow the city to pay its first responders wages that are competitive with surrounding cities while improving Haltom City’s facilities and infrastructure. Anyone who owns a business in Haltom City is eligible to join. Dues are $20 annually or $50 for a lifetime membership, and membership is 100% confidential. To join, contact Drew Weakley at (682) 310-0591 or by email at [email protected]. Visit the group’s Facebook at Haltom United Business Alliance.
About Haltom City
Haltom City is a medium-sized city between Dallas and Fort Worth in Tarrant County, TX. The city is diverse and majority working class, with a growing population that is approximately 10% Asian-American and 45% Hispanic. Haltom City benefits from being only minutes from both DFW Airport and Downtown Fort Worth, with direct access to major highways including I-820 and SH-121. Small businesses that have historically provided products, services, and jobs to residents included a once thriving automotive industry. The city has seen a decline in small businesses, especially automotive businesses. The city is healthy financially, with median household income growing around 8% in the past year. Haltom City has opportunity for continued growth through undeveloped land and many vacant buildings, especially in major corridors close to the city’s center. The city has good staff and a city manager that is interested in seeing more businesses, but they can only do as directed by the council.
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