On Tuesday, the Brentwood City Council opted against taking any action at this time on a potential moratorium of certain types of businesses ahead of a joint meeting with the Planning Commission.
Instead, the council provided direction to staff to incorporate some objective criteria regarding oversaturation into the zoning update. Council could not take formal action after the city legal department advised the council the agenda item had to do with a moratorium and not zoning. Staff also said they were already working on this item.
At the January 12 meeting, Rarey proposed the following future agenda item:
“I’d like a future agenda item to introduce a moratorium on gas stations, coffee shops, bagel shops, discount dollar stores, storage businesses and any other business that is over-saturated in our town,” stated Rarey. “We are getting to the point where a lot of these things we don’t need anymore of in our city and so I would like to have staff put that on the agenda”.
On Tuesday, she explained that her intent with the future agenda item request was looking at zoning and finding a way to spread commercial businesses out.
Rarey explained the moratorium allows the city time to review its zoning and make adjustments, but does not stop a business from submitting an application or proceeding through the application process, but rather it just prevents a business from getting a building permit until the zoning is reviewed and updated or the moratorium ends.
“Residents have been very vocal regarding an oversaturation of different types of businesses in town. For instance, we currently have 19 different gas stations that are built or in the process of being built and 17 car washes with almost one-third of those being recent applications,” stated Rarey. “That is all within 14.8 square miles. Brentwood Blvd. alone has 8 gas stations in the 2.8 mile stretch between Balfour and Lone Tree way. Two of those are in the process of being built.”
“I wholeheartedly believe that competition is good and improves the quality of goods, services and products offered. My concern is that we have a diversity of uses within areas and not an oversaturation of a business type in one area,” stated Rarey who noted recently a coffee shop opened up two doors down from a coffee and bagel shop along with another similar business opening up five doors down from one another. “We should be smart about zoning in order for all of our businesses to thrive.”
Rarey further highlighted she wanted to provide staff with direction on specific distances between business types to prevent over saturation in an area or other types of zoning that could be suggested to accomplish that. She urged the council to consider working with staff on the zoning updates with objective criteria.
After public comments, the council debated the item.
Councilwoman Jovita Mendoza stated she understood where Councilwoman Rarey was coming from based on all the times the public has come in to complain about storage units, gas stations, dollar stores and the residents keep asking for it.
“It says we are listening to it and exploring it,” stated Mendoza. “When it comes to deciding what goes where, cities already do that. This is an extreme one but lets say AMC does not come out of its bankruptcy, I don’t want to see an XXX movie theater. Do any of you? If you are about anything can go anywhere, that is a possibility.”
She continued by highlighting how those who believe in free market, how could Sprouts have a 30-year no compete clause for any other grocery store in that area. She noted guidelines are everywhere.
“This is just saying we need to get more guidelines in place,” stated Mendoza who highlighted some of the businesses also want more guidelines. “At some point, lets use bagel shops as an example. At some point, you are going to have a fixed amount of bagel that are going to be purchased in Brentwood and there will be no more. There will be no incremental benefit to anyone but you will have bagel shops everywhere and as a city you could have had a decision to have incremental revenue with a new type of business but because we didn’t want to talk about it, we keep adding bagel shops and there is no incremental benefit to anybody.”
Mendoza called it economically a benefit to put these moratoriums in place and include it in the zoning revue to talk about a criteria and put rules in place.
Councilwoman Susannah Meyer said the word “moratorium” throws her off based on the economic uncertainty right now and do not know how many current businesses will come through this, noting what happens if they loose two of their bagel shops.
“If we are talking more about planning and zoning, how much power do we have,” asked Meyer. “Oakley is a good example, people are complaining about their storage units and gas stations.”
Meyer further highlighted that councils all over are getting push back on wanting new businesses, not more storage units and gas stations. She was cautious over the use of “moratorium” in this situation.
Rarey reiterated that she closed her introduction tonight stating that she believed they did not need a moratorium—but wanted it to give the city a process beginning with 45-days for the city to review zoning and make changes. They could extend it for periods of time if needed.
She provided examples of including items such as 2,500 feet or 5,000 feet or other distances between gas stations or bagel shops. Her goal was to spread out businesses.
“It’s making it so you don’t get two stores next to each other,” stated Rarey who further highlighted for the Innovative Center (PA-1) they removed certain businesses from the zoning. She also suggested if the city is to approve more storage units, maybe its on the second level of a building and the first level is light industrial, office spaces or other things. “This is just looking at the zoning and creating objective criteria to diversify our community.”
Meyer stated the clarifying of this item and removing “moratorium” but the idea of “revising and evaluating the criteria for zoning makes more sense.”
Rarey further explained that moratoriums are put in place to accomplish something, not put it in place forever. She admitted that when she brought it up at the last meeting, it was a late meeting and she threw it out.
Vice Mayor Johnny Rodriquez stated he would like to hold off until February when they meet with the planning commission which a lot of these items will be discussed which could help them make a better decision at that point.
Mayor Joel Bryant stated he understood the concern and some processes in place that needed to be addressed about over saturation of business types. He appreciated Rarey explaining what a moratorium is because a lot of people don’t know what it is, but still had concerns.
“When you start talking about a moratorium right now in small businesses or any type of busines when when we still don’t know the result of what we are dealing with in COVID, the lock down, the shut down or whatever it is or however long its going to be. Its really concerning to me personally because it sends a message, even if it’s a message to people who aren’t aware of what a moratorium is, it sends a message that we are against businesses of certain types.”
Bryant agreed with the vice mayor that they can bring up everything that was just brought up in a meeting with the planning commission in February. He admitted they all agree that this needs to be addressed based on the comments tonight, but placing a moratorium that isn’t needed, he had concerns.
Rarey shot back.
“Mr. Mayor, I have said several times during this thing do we need a moratorium, probably not. Just if we can include or ask staff to ask the zoning consultant to include some objective criteria for us to review at the next meeting,” stated Rarey.
She highlighted that the meetings have yet to be set, but they can at least get the information and discuss it and decide what to move forward with.
“Everyone keeps getting hung up on the word moratorium and this is the fourth time now, do we need a moratorium, probably not,” stated Rarey.
Meyer asked if this type of thing will already be planned to be addressed at a future meeting if they could just do it then or if they could make a motion to include it on that meeting.
Terrence Grindall, Assistant City Manager, said this was an issue they were already working on and was planned to be discussed but called it a “balancing act” that is a key part of what they are working on with the zoning ordinance update. It would balance the needs of business by not creating a over saturation of business and creating vibrant retail centers.
Grindall did warn the council that a moratorium is a “four letter word” in the business community and encouraged them be expeditious in looking at this in the zoning code versus an actual moratorium—they will also be issuing a White Paper in the future.
Bryant stated he brought up the word “moratorium” because that was the word used in the future agenda item request but stated he agreed with every other component of this.
Rarey then made a motion to direct staff to incorporate some objective criteria regarding oversaturation into the zoning update.
Legal then stepped in and said the agenda item was regarding a moratorium so the motion made would not be appropriate for this agenda item but the city staff has heard what the council is requesting going forward with what is coming back at a future meeting.
No action was taken by the council based on legal advice.