Mercantile on Grove

The Mercantile on Grove, along with other businesses on Kaufman Square, will have to remove items displayed outside their buildings every night, and the height of displays and amount of space used will be regulated. The Kaufman City Council approved the amendments to local zoning ordinances on Monday, July 27.

Some business owners, council members oppose new zoning amendments

Amendments to zoning passed by the Kaufman City Council will bring changes to the way businesses display items on Kaufman Square. The amendments, passed by city council in its meeting on July 28, will require businesses to acquire a Specific Use Permit if they wish to display retail goods, merchandise, or materials inside of the Central Business District. Under the new rules, overnight displays will not be allowed, requiring business owners who display their items outside during the day to bring their items back inside each night. Furthermore, sidewalk displays will be limited in their maximum height and area which may be used, and displays must not impede pedestrian travel. Public seating and tables are exempted.

The amendments came after concerns were raised over items being displayed outdoors by the Mercantile On Grove, an antique store located at 110 E. Grove St., owned by Kellie Stolusky. Marcy Ratcliff, director of development services for the city, recalls how the issue started.

“When the Mercantile came up, she (Stolusky) started putting some things out around her doorway, just kind of making it more inviting, because she has no windows. And staff did not say anything to that, because it made it more inviting. And then she started adding more... and more.”

Ratcliff cited concerns over visual appeal, and the possibility of pedestrians being injured by items on the sidewalk. Also of concern is potential damage to the new sidewalks, which were funded by taxpayers. “All of those sidewalks belong to either the State of Texas, or the City of Kaufman,” said Ratcliff, who explained that the city could potentially be liable for injuries that occurred on the sidewalk. Ratcliff also knows that the issue could become more pressing, if other businesses were to follow suit.

“She displays the majority of her stuff very attractively,” Ratcliff said. “But it just takes one person to put stuff out there that doesn’t do a very good job, and people will complain. She's been very open, very honest. She's tried to provide the planning and zoning commission with assurances that she has no intention of doing that, and she's been a longtime resident of this community, too. But that’s part of the council's job, is not only to see what she does, but look to see what anybody could do.”

Many business owners attended the Monday meeting to voice their views, fearing that the changes will result in a loss of customers and sales.

Julie Tijerina, a lifelong resident of Kaufman who owns a business on the square, expressed concerns about the new requirements.

“People drive by and they see those displayed items, and it draws them in,” she said. “If I wasn’t a business owner and I all of a sudden saw the merchandise gone at night, or limited during the day, I would start to question if they were going out of business, or already shut down, and I wouldn’t bring my business there.”

Tijerina added: “We are struggling as small business owners and small towns, and these decisions like this, it just doesn’t make sense.” Other business owners, such as Jan Ward, also expressed concerns about the impact of the changes.

“You’re talking about something that could impact 40 to 50 businesses,” Ward said.

Stolusky declined to comment to the Herald.

Although several business owners and some council members objected to the amendments, they passed in a 4-3 vote by the council. Ratcliff said the new requirements are now in place, but the city is working with business owners to give them an appropriate amount of time to meet the new requirements.

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