West Memphis taking look at used car lots
City may consider tighter regulations as moratorium on new business nears end
The West Memphis moratorium on new used car businesses set to expire on Oct. 20 may be replaced by tough new guidelines and case-by-case consideration. City Planner Paul Luker rolled out the new regulations to city council to consider during a special meeting. Two public hearings on the matter served to stiffen expectations for anyone coming into the used car business in West Memphis. The new proposal covered new body shops, salvage operations and wrecker services and changed city decision making based on just zoning and location and would subject plans to detailed scrutiny.
“Before you can do a used cat lot, you have to come through the special use process,” said Luker. “That means you have to go through the planning commission, and have a site plan. That means you show where you’d have your cars, hard surfacing, storage. We’d have conditions where you couldn’t have wrecked vehicles. It would be a case-by-case basis, finishing with city council review and approval.”
Luker reminded the council that the revamped procedures began with the end in mind.
“This all started with the issue of what these car lots present,” said Luker. “They call themselves car lots but they look more like salvage. Frankly, a lot of this is in East Broadway. We’d work with them to develop a strong site plan and hold their feet to the fire.
The process will take four months to go through. So they will have to be serious about pursuing that site.
It won’t be just somebody that has enough money to pay rent one month. Sometimes that’s our problem.
People have the best intentions but they can’t do the things we think they need to do to satisfy the rules and regulations.
City Treasurer Frank Martin wanted to prevent passing along businesses without coursing back through the special use process.
“They ought to come back through the special use process every time the name changes on the utility bill,” said Martin. “That language should be inserted.”
Some city council members wanted even tougher requirements and asked the city administration to pursue cleaning up lots especially used car businesses and salvage operation on the east side.
Councilman Willis Mondy and Councilwomen Lorraine Mohammed and Helen Harris railed against a number of unsightly sales lots. Mondy complained that one was operating more as a body shop and salvage yard.
“They had the same old cars out on there front line for years,” said Mondy.
“They spray outdoors and there is going to be a new school and a park near there soon. All these fumes going everywhere. You need to do something about it. Should we call Little Rock or the EPA? That should be done in a paint booth with proper ventilation.”
Luker wanted help catching violators in the act.
“When you all see these things call us right away so we can go right there and address it,” said Luker.
“Part of the challenge is some one is not there all the time.”
“We need, as city council and administration, to do something to go in there and make them clean out these lots,” said Mohammed. “We need to put more teeth on it. Put higher fines on it. Little fines are not going to stop anybody.”
“Up is up.” — West Memphis City Treasurer Frank Martin, reporting modest gains in the city’s tax receipts to the West Memphis Budget Commission