Landscaping requirements eased for U.S. 19 car dealerships

New Port Richey car dealerships along U.S. Highway 19 are required to improve the appearance of their properties, but City Council relaxed some landscaping requirements.

NEW PORT RICHEY — The city still wants to clean up its stretch of the U.S. Highway 19 corridor, but it’s giving local auto dealerships a bit of a break.

An ordinance passed last year took aim at the appearance of new and used car dealerships on U.S. 19. Requirements included that all new dealerships must be at least 1 acre in size, all outdoor inventory be parked on paved surfaces, outdoor inventory areas be landscaped and have trees in at least 15% of all parking and inventory areas, and sales and rental office buildings have to be at least 1,000 gross square feet.

Ordinance standards went into effect last October 2019 for new dealerships. Existing businesses were required to comply with most requirements, but not those related to minimum lot size, minimum sales office building size, service and repair bay doors and separation requirements. Existing dealerships had one year to make necessary changes and that timeframe expired this month.

Prior to the Oct. 15 deadline, the city began to hear concerns from some of the auto dealers over the landscape buffering provisions. City Manager Debbie Manns told the City Council she met with some of the owners on July 20 to discuss ordinance alterations that still require landscape improvements but to a lesser extent.

“I’ve been working with a couple of the car dealerships that are very interested in implementing the buffering standards,” Manns said during the ordinance’s first reading Oct. 6. “And in that regard, we have found some difficulty based on the size of some of the lots and complying with the minimums as established in the ordinance you adopted a year ago.”

Changes now reduce the size of required buffer landscaping along U.S. 19 from 10 to 6 feet in width, and one canopy tree per 60 feet or two trees per lot frontage, whichever is greater. Non-U.S. 19 dealership frontage now requires buffer landscaping of 4 feet, down from 8 feet, and one canopy tree per 60 feet. Any perimeter adjacent to residential areas must have a 6-foot wide landscaped buffer with a 6-foot high opaque masonry wall or fence with one canopy tree per 60 feet of wall or fence.

Shrubbery is required between trees on all property frontage.

“We believe this is a much more workable and reasonable standard for us to implement,” Manns said.

The city’s Land Development and Review Board discussed and approved the amendments at its Sept. 17 meeting and City Council approved the ordinance’s second reading at the Oct. 20 regular meeting.

“If it’s workable and they’re happy with it then I’m happy with it,” Councilman Chopper Davis said.