Arlington City Council to consider prohibiting ‘new’ used car dealerships in entertainment district – KERA News

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Jorge Zamudio said his auto repair business just off State Highway 360 provides a lifeline for people with limited transportation options.

“A lot of the citizens, they can’t just go to a new car dealer and always just, you know, get a new car. It’s very difficult nowadays, so we’re kind of their last option,” he said.

A proposed development policy amendment would prohibit new used auto sales businesses from opening in the entertainment district, where Zamudio operates his business. If approved, existing businesses would be considered “grandfathered” in – that is, they can continue operations indefinitely, but would have limited options if they want to renovate their business or rebuild it if the building is extensively damaged.

Patricia Sinel, city long-range planning manager, said her department suggested the proposal because the city has spent years tightening its regulations surrounding used car dealerships.

In 2022, the city received an influx of applications for Certificates of Occupancy (CO) for used car dealerships because of a policy change at the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Businesses renewing or applying for their license to operate had to provide proof they had a CO to operate rather than just checking a box on a form.

The state policy change revealed that Arlington had around 430 dealerships in town at the time, over half of which operated in places not zoned for used car sales. As of December, the city counted about 260 dealers, 90 of which did not have valid certificates of occupancies.

“We had a lot of dealers come in and we had to turn a lot of them down because they were not in a zoning district that allowed used auto sales,” Sinel said.

The city has since changes to the city’s Unified Development Code, a master list of development regulations and standards.

Sinel said automotive service centers were already prohibited in the entertainment district.

“Based on prior direction from council, we made that suggestion to the Municipal Policy Committee whether or not this was the direction they wanted to take … just based on the purpose and the intent of the entertainment district itself and if that was the vision that council had for the entertainment district if you’re coming off 360 on Division Street,” Sinel said. “Did we intend to target everybody? Absolutely not.”

Arlington’s Entertainment District Overlay encompasses the area around AT&T Stadium, Choctaw Stadium and Six Flags Over Texas. The overlay also stretches east of State Highway 360. The city has seven overlays, which are zoning designations for areas with specific development needs.

Arlington City Council will vote on the proposal March 26 as part of the city’s annual Unified Development Code update, a master list of regulations and standards for land use and development in town.

Council tabled discussion and vote on the 30 policy changes at the best of Arlington Board of Realtors. The group requested time to review proposed changes with city staff.

Sinel said city council members can decide to scrap the proposal or exclude certain areas from the policy change.

Several business owners, including Zamudio, wrote letters urging council to spare their businesses, which lie on the easternmost edge of the entertainment district and are zoned for industrial manufacturing – a designation that would otherwise allow them to operate their businesses.

Hassan Rahmati said in a letter to Arlington City Council that he has poured his heart and soul into his auto service properties since 1994, when he bought 800 and 804 Watson Road. He now rents his property to business owners like Zamudio and says business operations across his properties have generated millions in annual revenue.

“I have been with this area since the beginning and have watched it grow to the Arlington we know and love today. As someone who has done business on this road for the past thirty years … I ask that you please allow me to continue growing this area through the car industry,” Rahmati wrote.

Heather Moreno with Lawler Motor Sports, Inc., said she is concerned with the implications of having a building that is considered legally non-conforming. The designation would make it harder for her business to receive a loan. The change would also mean she and other business owners could not rebuild if more than half of the fair market value of the structure was damaged in a natural disaster.

“Can you imagine suffering something that would already be such a devastating experience only to find that you also lost your ability to continue your ongoing business operations?” she wrote.

Got a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at [email protected].

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