Studies are clear that small business in the driver of revitalization, yet Haltom City continues to stifle small business growth with a restrictive use table and micromanagement using Conditional Use Permits (CUPs)
HALTOM CITY, TX, December 08, 2021 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Haltom City residents have said that they want a major grocery store ever since Kroger left some years back. Now, another location in a national chain, CVS, has left from the spot across from where the Kroger closed. These stores have long leases, so it's not readily apparent when they are doing poorly because they stay open. However, when their leases mature, underperforming stores close quickly, often with short notice.
Haltom United Business Alliance (HUBA) believes that many of Haltom City's leaders are in denial about Haltom City's declining inner city, including the central and southern older areas, and NE 28th Street.
The city recently proposed a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ), a 30-year plan to create a special district that allows some additional money to be used for infrastructure and public improvements only. Studies have shown that creating a TIRZ can be helpful, but many studies have concluded that private investment is needed to revitalize inner cities, and a strong relationship with the business community and attracting small business is the best and fastest way to get all the vacant buildings occupied. Haltom City's City Manager Rex Phelps has done a great job attracting larger distribution centers to Haltom City, but those plans are not going to stimulate small business growth in the declining areas.
"Large businesses are not going to come to declining corridors, ever, and can't be incented to do so," said HUBA Director of Communications Joe Palmer. "They won't come until the corridors are thriving again, as they were 20 years ago, before the city embarked on a misguided plan to limit certain kinds of businesses to beautify the city," added Palmer.
It was common knowledge, though forgotten today, that in 2003, Haltom City Council made most car dealers legal non-conforming, and they are now all gone, as the members of Council intended, according to Palmer.
Earlier this year, the current Haltom City Council made most other automotive businesses (auto repair shops, tire shops, battery stores) legal non-conforming, and they will also go away over the next decade. All but one of the current members of Haltom City Council have been outspoken about limiting the automotive businesses, but they have also made it hard on other less intense use small businesses to open.
"Dry cleaners can't even open without public hearings, unless they want to be in the industrial or heavy industrial districts of Haltom City," said Palmer. "Dozens of other similar retail and service business types also can't open without the same conditional use permit hearings that take months and cost the owners thousands of dollars to hire consultants to complete the needed paperwork and meet the other requirements," said Palmer.
"The net result is that Haltom City is at a competitive disadvantage in the race with nearby communities to attract start up small businesses because these same uses can open in surrounding cities as an approved use, paying their fees, and getting their usual inspections, and certificate of occupancy within days," noted Palmer.
Many studies have pointed out how use tables and permit requirements prevent the growth of small business, and the importance of the lost commerce. Arista Strungys, AICP, with the American Planning Association noted that use regulations "…can create unintentional barriers for small businesses, businesses that have positive impacts on a community that go beyond direct economic benefits." Strungys advises cities to take care that use rules do not "…create unintended barriers instead of opening up opportunities for entrepreneurship." Get a PDF of the full article here.
HUBA believes that a lack of business owners on the Haltom City Council, both in the past and currently, has limited the process of change and prevented the adopting of business-friendly ordinances. Instead, the council members have adopted a strategy of not allowing things that they personally don't like. They also fail to think of what's best for the city in the long run, instead they follow the advice of a few vocal members of the community, mistakenly thinking that those comments must represent the thoughts of all the citizens. In particular, the city has failed to recognize that the needs of residents in the central and southern parts of the city are different than the emerging modern development on the north side of the city," said Ron Sturgeon, a founding member of HUBA and owner of a real estate development company that employs 9 based in Haltom City.
Ms. Strungys explains the effects of use rules like those Haltom City has this way: "Older ordinances often build inflexibility into commercial use permissions in two ways: 1) by taking a specific use approach and 2) by organizing permissions in a cumulative or pyramid system of uses. Combined, these approaches can frustrate potential new small businesses by requiring lengthy and expensive special approvals, complicating interpretations of permissions, and discouraging emerging uses. The specific use approach has become disfavored in modern practice because of its length and inability to respond to new and emerging uses."
Haltom City doesn't want automotive businesses because they aren't as compliant as desired. Ms. Strungys addresses that in her comments, "Zoning does not regulate the quality of a use or operator. This must be enforced through other regulations, such as licenses and nuisance ordinances. Sometimes residents' concerns are that they like a certain use when run by Operator A, but not Operator B. Zoning cannot make this distinction. To realize the benefits of small businesses in a community, the municipality must eliminate the roadblocks within its zoning regulations. When a zoning ordinance permits a range of uses, it can facilitate small business innovation, make it easier for small businesses to stablish themselves and take root, and send a message that small businesses are welcome within the community. Then, when zoning acknowledges the physical form of small businesses and does not force standards upon them that they cannot meet, the community becomes more business friendly. By taking a look at their current ordinances and evaluating them through these lenses, communities can ensure that their zoning regulations encourage the growth of new - and the success of existing—small businesses."
As a proponent of policies to bring more small businesses to Haltom City, Ron Sturgeon added this comment: "It would be nice if the council could think about how to get more small businesses, instead of limiting them, especially in these times when all cities are literally competing for small businesses. Haltom City could be the prettiest girl at the dance if the members of our city council would adopt the appropriate strategies."
HUBA has asked numerous times for the council to review the matrix of uses to make it easier for new businesses to open. It has even submitted a set of proposed revisions to Haltom City Council.
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 an 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 who is interested in seeing more businesses come to Haltom City, but they can only do as directed by City Council.
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 nurtures 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. HUBA believes that the southern and central parts of the city need a revitalization plan, to prevent further degradation in those areas, and wants that to happen before the inner-city experiences increased crime and more blight. As retail and office uses are in decline, its more critical than ever to attract new businesses. They believe that such a plan requires a strong relationship and support of the business community. Anyone who owns a business in Haltom City is eligible to join HUBA. Dues are $20 annually or $50 for a lifetime membership, and membership is 100% confidential. To join, contact Joe Palmer at (682) 310-0591 or by email at HUBAgrp@gmail.com. Visit the group's Facebook at Haltom United Business Alliance.
About Arista Strungys, AICP
Arista Strungys, AICP, is a principal at Camiros, Ltd. Her area of expertise is zoning and development regulations, and she has worked with communities of all sizes throughout the United States in drafting development regulations.
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