After months of debate, the Arlington City Council approved new zoning restrictions Tuesday night, effective immediately, for used-car lots and other auto-related businesses.
The rules limit where auto service and repair shops, oil and lube businesses and used-car lots can go.
“It’s intended to affect new businesses,” Councilman Robert Shepard said. “The intent was never to, although some would argue, adversely affect current businesses.”
Shepard said areas of South Cooper Street are cluttered with used-car lots. The updated ordinance states that new auto-related businesses can open only in the city’s business district on portions of Lamar Boulevard, and Cooper, Division and Collins streets with special approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission and the council.
Previously, business owners needed only a certificate of occupancy to open. That might take about a day to acquire, city planner Clayton Husband said.
More than 260 auto-related businesses opened in the last two years, leading to complaints.
“We can’t just sit around on our major thoroughfares and let people put up used-car lots,” Mayor Robert Cluck said.
Cluck said the changes won’t be immediately noticeable.
If the new regulations had been instituted years ago, Division Street wouldn’t be what it is today, he said.
Current businesses will be grandfathered in, and auto repair garages, used car-lots and carwashes in the business district will be able to rebuild their property if they incur damage greater than 50 percent. Typically, a business requiring that much rebuilding would lose grandfather rights.
Buildings damaged by 50 percent or more in other districts will not be able to rebuild as nonconforming uses, Shepard said.
Auto-related businesses can go into light industrial districts (areas that primarily have warehouses and other distribution centers) without council approval as long as they sit 200 feet from the street.
Councilmen Jimmy Bennett and Robert Rivera voted against the new regulations. Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon abstained.
Rivera said he voted no to “protect the private property rights of small-business owners.”
Rivera said property owners will face difficulty if they want to expand their property, and he called it “undue hardship for smaller uses.”
“When a permitted use turns into a nonconforming use, you are changing the value of the property that the existing owner was expecting,” he said.
Violators can be fined up to $2,000 for each offense.
The final vote on the restrictions was postponed three times, and at the last council meeting, where public comment was allowed, 10 speakers expressed opposition.