A recent tenant waited one year to get his certificate of occupancy in Kennedale.

KENNEDALE, TX, April 08, 2024 /24-7PressRelease/ — “Who would come to a city where it takes a year to get a Certificate of Occupancy (CO)? Small businesses want less regulation, less red tape, and to be able to open their business quickly and start making money.”

The city should have the same goal, according to Joe Palmer, Executive Director of Kennedale Alliance of Business Owners. With elections underway, he says, “I hope citizens will ask council candidates if they are sincerely interested in bringing more small businesses to the city, and if they are willing to insist city staff make that a priority.”

Recently a Kennedale property owner recounted the drama related to a new tenant with no change of use who was refused a certificate of occupancy.

Ron Sturgeon bought the property located at 1208 Kennedale Parkway in 1992. The property was an automotive repair shop and tire shop. Over subsequent decades, the property has remained an automotive repair and tire shop with perhaps 10 tenants over the years.

Recently a new tire shop rented the building from Ron and went to the city for a certificate of occupancy. The tenant was told by city staff that the city would not allow an automotive business at that location.

Sturgeon recalls a meeting with the City Manager and Mayor, during which he was reassured that there had been a mistake, confirming that a CO should be easy to obtain when there is no change of use.

“It became obvious after the meeting, that the city intended to throw up as many roadblocks as possible to prevent this business from opening,” said Sturgeon.

When the tenant reapplied, Nathan Gonzalez, Director of Community Development for Kennedale issued a list of requirements such as screening the parking lot, adding landscaping, providing manufacturer’s specifications for the bolts holding the automotive lifts, dictating the type of racks that would be used in the building to hold tires, requiring a fire alarm system (for a 2,400sf building), and because the operator would have some inoperable cars, the city wanted to treat it as a salvage yard, required additional parking areas. The demands from the city didn’t end there, according to Sturgeon.

Sturgeon adds the fire alarm system was going to cost $16,000; expanding the parking lot was going to cost $12,000. After much effort from both the tenant and owner, the city relented on landscaping and other items not required with no change of use, and after months of negotiations, agreed to issue a temporary CO (5 months after application) subject to many items being completed. The final CO was issued one full year after the final application, with requirements for an expensive parking lot overlay, which was later waived.

It is important to mention that the current code does require all parking in the parkway to be screened, though it has never been enforced, and one can only imagine what the parkway would look like with all parking lots screened.

Included in this release as an attachment is a list of the city’s comments and requirements as well as the property manager’s response to the city. Jim Eaton, the property manager, says, “Mr. Gonzalez was always nice. He just said no and imposed very expensive restrictions on a small building that rents for $2000 a month. It was clear to us that he was being given instructions to try to prevent this use.”

“Without the willingness to persevere for this long, how would any business owner get their doors open in Kennedale?” asks Palmer. “Not every tenant has a landlord who is willing to spend in excess of $10,000 to make improvements to a building, many of which simply added no value to the city, landlord or the tenant, and how many will arrange a meeting with the city manager?”

Sturgeon adds, “The City Manager made it clear that he wanted businesses that would be a source of more sales tax revenue. That sounds like a really good goal but considering the condition of the economy and the effects on occupancy, cities like ours can’t be as restrictive as in years past. And if they think retail is coming back, they are mistaken.”

Sturgeon added, “The purpose of city government was never to control commerce and economics. Their mission should be to serve their residents and business community, not to use the code as a weapon to prevent new businesses from opening or existing businesses from operating.”

Palmer believes the city should track new business inquiries in the planning department, including calls and walk ins, and have a system of follow-up to make sure that all inquiries have been responded to.

The Fish Rots from the Head.

Sturgeon sees this leadership mantra being demonstrated: As soon as the City Manager and Mayor make bringing small businesses a top priority, the staff will march to that plan. But it must be real, not just lip service. Are they willing to make actual changes to make this happen, or just “say” they are business friendly?” Sturgeon added.

Palmer says, “The business community was hopeful that the newly elected Council and City Manager would adopt a pro-business attitude, but that does not seem to be the case. When the department of planning issues very intrusive, expensive and inappropriate requirements for small businesses to come to the city, the businesses will simply go elsewhere. And with fewer businesses contributing to the tax base, the city’s tax burden will continue to fall heavily on the residents.”

KABO is curious whether any other small businesses have had similar experiences in Kennedale, and what additional suggestions can be offered to make the city more hospitable to small businesses.

KABO exists to advocate for the Kennedale business community and its residents and to keep businesses informed about issues that might affect them. Anyone who owns or works for a business in Kennedale is eligible to join. Dues are $20 annually and membership in the group is confidential. To learn more about the group, contact Executive Director Joe Palmer at (817) 903-5320 or by email at [email protected].

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