By Linda Kor
The City of Holbrook will be seeking legal advice regarding the enforcement of city code specific to commercially zoned businesses operating on or near the main streets.
The opening of two thrift shops in the community, one at the intersection of Navajo Blvd. and Hopi Drive, and the other in the bowling alley located just one block off of Hopi Drive, have residents questioning whether the city is enforcing the codes and if it is, should the current codes be revised.
City Manager Ray Alley admitted to having concerns regarding the direction that some of the businesses are taking, but feels reluctant to impose restrictions on businesses that have a valid state sales tax license. “If a business owner has a state sales tax license, I don’t feel it’s up to me to decide what type of business they have on their premises,” he stated when asked about the situation.
According to city code, the areas in question fall under the C-2 General Commercial Zone. Under that zone there are 72 principal permitted uses under which a business can operate without seeking a conditional use permit from the city through the Planning and Zoning Commission. There are also 10 specific types of businesses that are required to go before the commission for conditional use permit approval, including a type listed as “similar use” to ensure no other business type is left out of consideration. Of the possibilities listed under principal use permit, there is no specific listing for a thrift shop, meaning that a business of that nature would fall under “similar use” and would be required to go before the commission for approval. There are currently five thrift stores operating in Holbrook and none of them are operating under a conditional use per-mit. The other three are the stores located at the First Step Workshop, the Holbrook Senior Citizens Center and the Used A Bit Thrift Store.
When asked if the building housing the Now or Later Thrift Shop at the corner of Hopi Drive and Navajo Blvd. could be considered a safety hazard due to the age and deterioration of the building, City Clerk Cher Reyes stated that the city’s fire marshal was scheduled to visit this week the building to determine its safety.
In addition to potential safety concerns, as of Wednesday, the business had two vacuum cleaners, a bicycle and used clothing adorning the sidewalk in front of the doorway that opens onto the busy intersection, also a violation of city code. The owners have been notified by the city that all items must be kept inside the building, but to date that has not taken place.
With the closure of the swap meet at the north end of town west of Navajo Blvd. last summer, the individuals selling their wares at that location moved to the parking lot of the bowling alley on 12th Avenue. The property owner was informed by the city that the merchandise could not be allowed outside the building, but Alley agreed to allow the individuals to continue to sell their wares, as long as the items were taken inside the building.
In front of both businesses are hand-painted signs advertising the thrift stores, each of which are in violation of city code, since sign permits have not been obtained by the city.
Alley admitted that there are code violations taking place throughout the city, but justified the lack of enforcement by stating that if all codes were enforced, there would be many more residents and businesses held accountable. “We’d be issuing violations throughout the entire city,” he stated.
Alley also stated that he did not feel the city code was a defensible document, and that anyone restricted from operating a certain type of business could threaten legal action against the city. Alley believes that the code allows for too many loopholes due to the “similar uses” notation, even though that falls under the conditional use requirements. He also questioned whether a thrift store can consider itself a retail sales business or an antique shop, which is a permissible business that does not require a conditional use permit. “There are too many loopholes and I don’t feel comfortable telling someone what they can do with their business until that’s cleared up,” stated Alley.
In addition to questions regarding types of business allowed, there are also several large commercial business signs in the city that appear in violation of the sign code. The code states that if any outdoor advertising display becomes a danger to the public, becomes deteriorated or is abandoned, the property owner or owner of the display shall remove or repair the display within 10 days (except in circumstances of imminent danger to public safety), or it shall be removed and the cost assessed to the owner of the property on which the sign is located. The decision to determine the percentage of that damage is to be made by the code enforcement officer.
On the main streets of Hopi Drive and Navajo Blvd., a cursory glance shows at least four large signs that could be in violation: the Tate’s Auto Center sign in the 1000 block of Navajo Blvd., and the auto repair sign and two Gas Mart signs all located in the 2000 block of Navajo Blvd.
City Clerk Cher Reyes admits that there are violations that need to be addressed, especially with the anticipation of new industry coming to the area but also noted that the code enforcement officer works only one day a week, and that on the remaining days that duty falls upon her to address along with her regular duties.
To address the matter, Alley asked Reyes to have a work session scheduled for the planning and zoning commission to work through any concerns with the code, but noted that any new additions to code would not apply to existing businesses. He will also have the city’s attorney review the code to determine if it gives clear direction for the city to follow regarding existing businesses that have opened since that code has been in place.
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By Linda Kor