NEW PORT RICHEY – Tidying up the U.S. 19-Gulf Coast Highway corridor is high on city council’s list of things to do and the board went back to work during its last regular council meeting.

Council passed a measure earlier this year that takes aim at rundown motels acting as extended-stay housing facilities.

At the April 2 meeting, the board set its sights on auto dealerships.

According to information from the meeting agenda, there are 13 auto sales businesses along the three-mile stretch of U.S. 19 that is part of New Port Richey. The agenda packet prepared by Planning and Development Director George Romagnoli described concerns held by council members and other city officials.

“Many of the locations have poor landscaping, store too much product on their site, and have inadequately sized sales offices,” Romagnoli wrote. “There are concerns that some dealerships may be affecting the quality of life of surrounding neighborhoods, and concentration of these businesses may not be beneficial to the economic quality and growth of the city.”

What council discussed at the April 2 meeting was the first reading of Ordinance 2019-2160. The ordinance proposes placing a 180-day moratorium on auto dealerships opening up along U.S. 19. During the moratorium, the city’s Planning and Development Department will propose amendments to the Land Development Review Board to address the deteriorating condition of the new and used automobile and truck sales locations. Proposed amendments will also aim to “ensure that new businesses are an enhancement to the city’s landscape,” Romagnoli wrote.

Part of the process involves working with existing businesses to learn their needs.

“Not all of them are representing the city appropriately as it comes to parking and landscaping and we think that they may have some special needs for signage that other businesses don’t have,” said City Manager Debbie Manns during the April 2 meeting. “So, we would like to gain some input from the auto and truck dealerships and present to them a draft recommendation before we bring it to the Land Development Review Board and to you for final consideration.”

Council and staff spent about 10 minutes discussing the matter, with all five board members in agreement to move forward. The second reading of the ordinance was held April 23.

“There’s way too many — 13 in three miles,” Councilman Matt Murphy said. “From what I’ve seen at the car lots there’s really not incentive to upgrade or make things look nice. It’s just about throwing cars out there and trying to sell. It really just adds to the blight, I think.”

“It’s something that needs to be addressed,” Councilman Jeff Starkey said. “We should have addressed this a long time ago, in my opinion. But a 180-day moratorium while we can research this and come up with some standards is a very good starting point.

“It just doesn’t look nice,” Starkey added. “It’s not aesthetically pleasing to the eye, some of these car dealerships, particularly the used ones, and they pack these cars in like sardines. I honestly don’t even know how they get some of these cars out of here.”