City Compromises With Kemp Business

Amy Neal celebrated nine years in business with an appearance before the Wichita Falls Planning and Zoning Commission. She was seeking a conditional-use permit for something she'd been doing at her business for years.

Neal is the owner of Wear it Again Sam on Kemp Blvd. She sells used kids clothing and accessories. Though her business consists of several structures, Neal still needs to display some of her merchandise out front. But, city-wide code considers used merchandise, displayed outside, as outside storage.

The practice of displaying goods outside is something Neal and several other business owners on Kemp have been doing for years. And no one has been complaining. But, the city recently rezoned parts of Kemp, establishing a new Commercial Corridor Zone. The move was meant to increase business development along Kemp.

Part of that new zone places restrictions on the outer appearance of any new businesses. City Planner II Marty Odom said the city is focusing more on that area, and that's partly why the new crackdown is occurring.

Neal's business is, however, not in the Commercial Corridor Zone. It is right outside of it in a General Commercial Zone. That allowed her to seek the conditional-use permit. City staff had recommended restricting Neal's displays to the sides and back of her business and requiring some sort of screening, like privacy fencing. But, Neal says that would take up parking spaces and give rise to theft.

The city and Neal reached a compromise at Wednesday's Planning and Zoning Commission board meeting. Neal will be allowed to display items out front, as long as she restricts that to existing paved areas and porches.

Businesses actually in the Commercial Corridor Zone don't have the conditional-use permit available. L.O. Nelson with the Small Business Development Center said the city is looking into a compromise for those businesses too.

At Wednesday's Planning and Zoning meeting, board members debated the definition of outside storage in city code. Several raised concerns over hurting existing businesses. Board member Ripley Tate said there seems to be a lot of ambiguity in the city's code. And, he said, it doesn't make sense for the city to enforce code meant to attract business in a way that negatively affects existing ones.

Odom said reviewing the code to tighten it up may be something the city needs to consider.